News in February 2008
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2008-03-04

General

'GM food is a big opportunity...none of the questions raised about it are serious from a scientific point of view'
David Baltimore, Nobel Laureate (interview), The Indian Express, Feb. 4, 2008
http://www.indianexpress.com/story/268825.html

(Part of the interview)

~ It's often said that if the 20th century was the century of physics, the 21st will be the century of biology. And for that to happen, one of the reasons will be my guest this week,Prof David Baltimore, professor at Caltech

~ You have no ideological position against GM foods?

I have no ideological position against GM foods. I don't see any reason to have one. It's not a matter of ideology, it's a matter of . . .

~ So what your view on the very loud opposition to GM food, this fear, this phobia?

I think it's people holding on to the past. I just think people have a visceral worry about the future and it comes out sometimes and GM food is one place where worries about the future have focussed.

~ But as a scientist, as a scientist who knows more than most other scientists, you have no evidence to worry about GM foods?

I have no evidence at all to worry about it. None of the questions that have been raised about GM foods are really serious issues from a scientific point of view.

~ You will happily eat a GM meal?

Absolutely. If it tastes good.

Books & Articles

Report avalable of US-EC Workshop on Cyber infrastructure Resources for Genome-Enabled Research on Microbial Life and the Marine Environment - September 9-11, 2007,
Arlington VA at EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research or http://ec.europa.eu/research/biotechnology/ec-us/index_en.html, Workshops

Events

It is our great pleasure to invite you to the Match2BioSME coaching workshop to be held on the 21st and 22nd of February 2008 in Sophia Antipolis, FRANCE
EuropaBio - The European Association for Bio-Industries www.europabio.org
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is organizing its fourth international biennial conference BioVisionAlexandria 2008 held from 12 to 16 April 2008 in Alexandria, Egypt. For more information, visit this website: http://www.bibalex.org/biovisionalexandria/
2nd Workshop on Monoclonal Antibodies - Cutting Edge Science for new Medicines will take place June 3 to 5, 2008 in Heidelberg. Again internationally acknowledged speakers in the areas Antibody Design, Pharma Development, Process Development, Analytics, Clinics and Regulatory Affairs could be recruited. There will be the possibility for product and service exhibitions and poster presentations.
European Bioperspectives 2008. Hanover, 7-9 October 2008

will be the fourth conference which again unites 18 major biotechnology and bioscience organisations in presenting an excellent scientific programme from many areas of research. European Bioperspectives 2007 attracted almost 2,000 international scientists. This year, it will be combined with Biotechnica the leading exhibition for the European biotech industry which had 13,000 visitors last year. www.bioperspectives.org

BIO-Europe Spring® (April 7-9, Madrid, Spain) event continues the tradition of providing life science companies with high calibre partnering opportunities. The event enables biotechnology companies to identify, meet and network with companies across the biotechnology value chain from large biotech and pharma companies to financiers and innovative start-ups. http://www.ebdgroup.com/bes/index.htm
EUROPEAN WHITE BIOTECHNOLOGY SUMMIT
Commercial Strategies and Novel Science to Advance the Production of Biochemicals & Biomaterials in Europe
21-22 May 2008, Sheraton Congress Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany

Brochure download: http://www.iir-events.com/IIR-Conf/page.aspx?id=11253
Website: http://www.iir-events.com/IIR-Conf/page.aspx?id=11252
Request brochure by email? Contact naomi.gill@informa-ls.com

EuropaBio announces BioMedica 2008, 16-17 April 2008; Maastricht, The Netherlands
website: www.biomedica2008.com
Conférence FEDERE
27-28 March 2008, Maison de la Chimie, Paris
http://www.lesechos-conferences.fr/co/catalogue/conferences/energie-environnement-de/federe/presentation.html

"Changement climatique et responsabilité sociale"

OECD-IMF Conference on structural reform in Europe
17 March 2008, OECD Conference Centre, Paris
http://www.oecd.org:80/site/0,3407,en_21571361_39884857_1_1_1_1_1,00.html

This one-day conference, jointly organised by the IMF and OECD, identifies priorities for further action and addresses related political economy issues.

'Biofuel - a New Market Niche', which will take place in Riga, Latvia, on the 13th - 14th of March, in 5-star hotel 'Reval Ridzene'. www.vostockcapital.com.
EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research
Biotechnology for the development of sustainable bioenergy - San Francisco,California, US, 21-22 February 2008- Contact information added

Global

Global agricultural biotechnology market to exceed $8.0 billion by 2009, according to a new report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (press release) via SeedQuest, Feb. 25, 2008
http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2008/february/21888.htm

The global agricultural biotechnology market is projected to exceed US$8.0 billion by 2010, growing at a compounded annual rate of over 10% during the analysis period. Despite several controversies surrounding the consumption of genetically modified food, agricultural biotechnology market continues to be resilient and is projected to witness robust growth over the next five years.

United States is the largest agricultural biotechnology market in the world and is projected to cross US$5 billion by the year 2010, as stated by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing agricultural biotechnology market in the world and is projected to expand at a CAGR of over 14% during the ten-year analysis period. Transgenic seeds market is the largest and the fastest growing segment in the global agricultural biotechnology market and is projected to cross US$8 billion by the year 2009, expanding at a compounded annual rate of over 10% during the analysis period.

Leading players in the global agricultural biotechnology market include Bayer CropScience AG, Certis USA, Dow AgroSciences LLC, Emerald BioAgriculture Corporation, Makhteshim-Agan Industries Ltd., Monsanto Company, Mycogen Seeds, Performance Plants Inc., Pioneer Hi-Bred International, and Syngenta International AG.

The report titled "Agricultural Biotechnology: A Global Strategic Business Report" published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., provides strategic content on available transgenic cropland worldwide, ethical, environmental and legal issues facing the industry, biotech research initiatives, competitive scenario, regulatory environment, and other strategic corporate developments. The study also analyzes market data and analytics in value sales for regions such as USA, Canada, Asia-Pacific (including Japan), Latin America, and Rest of World by the following product segments -- Transgenic Seeds/Crops (Soybean, Corn, Cotton, and Others), and Biopesticides. For more details about this research report, please visit http://www.strategyr.com/Agricultural_Biotechnology_Market_Report.asp
GM crop use to double by 2015, study predicts
Salamander Davoudi, Financial Times (UK), Feb. 13, 2008
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/88616cf6-d9d7-11dc-bd4d-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

Agricultural use of genetically modified crops across the world has increased almost 70-fold in the past 10 years, breaking the 100m-hectare mark, and is set to double by 2015, according to a study released today.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application, a non-profit organisation, estimates that GM crops were last year planted on 114m hectares (282m acres) worldwide by more than 12m farmers, a 12 per cent increase on the previous year. "About 70 per cent of the world's poor are associated with agriculture and about 50 per cent of these people are subsistence farmers," said Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA. "Increasing the income of small and resource-poor farmers contributes to the poverty alleviation of a large majority of the world's poorest people."

The global market for GM seeds and traits - the GM portion of the technology added to seed - is growing at 12 per cent a year as farmers look to boost yields. Biotechnology has been proven to improve yields per hectare in some crops mainly by offering protection from insect damage and disease.

The US and Argentina have given over the most land for growing GM crops, with 57.7m and 19m hectares respectively. India this year overtook China to become the fifth largest producer in the world.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) report

Report of ISAAA issued on February 13 2008 summarized the global use of transgenic crops: The annual growth amounts 12% reaching total area of 114.3 millions ha. The growth rate in developing countries (22%) surpassed that of industrialised countries (6%) as well as their number (12 to 11). Farmers are quickly adopting varieties with more traits added. China reported 250 000 insect resistant poplar trees for reforestation. Two millions farmers extend GM crops growers family that is now reaching 12 million subjects out of them 11 millions were resource-poor farmers. With increasing food prices the benefit is rising sharply.

UN over-regulation inhibits new biotechnologies
12 February 2008
Source: World Politics Review
http://www.scidev.net:80/Opinions/index.cfm?fuseaction=readOpinions&itemid=724&language=1

The UN is defying scientific consensus on important new technologies such as genetically modified crops, according to Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution in the United States.

In this World Politics Review article, Miller accuses the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Convention on Biological Diversity and other UN bodies of over-regulation that makes it "virtually impossible" to develop gene-spliced plants that can grow with low-quality water or under drought conditions.

He says the most important of the UN Millennium Development Goals — to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 — cannot be accomplished without innovative technology, which the organisation itself is inhibiting.

The FAO, he says, calls for greater resources for agriculture but makes these resources drastically less cost-effective by "gratuitous, unscientific, over-regulation of the new biotechnology".

Miller says the regulation of important technologies "is a growth industry at the UN".

"The result is vastly inflated research and development costs, less innovation and diminished exploitation of superior techniques and products."
PG Economics welcomes new ISAAA brief:
Global status of commercialised biotech crops 2007
PG Economics Limited (press release), Feb. 12, 2008

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will soon release its annual status report on global adoption of agricultural biotechnology traits.

At the same time, Friends of the Earth (FOE) will release a report Who Benefits from GM Crops? The Rise in Pesticide Use, that makes a series of inaccurate and incorrect claims about the global impact of GM technology.

As authors of a number of peer reviewed published reports and papers on the impact of agricultural biotechnology, PG Economics provides below a summary of key real impacts of the technology and comments on the main claims made by the FOE report.

  1. Peer reviewed research in scientific journals consistently shows that agricultural biotechnology has delivered substantial economic and environmental advantages.
  2. In 2005, the majority of both the farm income gains (55%) and benefits from reduced pesticide use (54%) went to farmers in developing countries. 90% of the farmers benefiting from using the technology are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries like China and India.
  3. The total cost paid by farmers to access GM technology (seed premium) was equal to an average of only 26% of the total farm income benefit. For farmers in developing countries the total cost was equal to only 13% of the total farm income gains they derived, compared to 38% in developed countries.
  4. Biotech crops have also delivered a number of other more intangible benefits to farmers. These include:
    bulletHerbicide tolerant crops have facilitated a switch from a plough-based to a no/reduced tillage production system which has helped reduce soil erosion (and cut carbon dioxide emissions)
    bulletInsect resistant crops have resulted in improved quality of food (eg, less cancer-causing mycotoxins in corn) and reduced exposure to insecticides for many farm workers in developing countries where use of protective equipment has traditionally been limited
    bulletShortening the growing season allowing some farmers to plant a second crop in the same season (eg, maize following cotton in India, soybeans following wheat in South America).
Inaccurate and incorrect claims by FOE:
  1. The FOE report makes numerous inaccurate and incorrect claims.
  2. Pesticide use has not increased as a result of the adoption of biotech crops - it has fallen significantly relative to levels of use that would have occurred without using biotechnology. More importantly there have been significant environmental gains associated with this reduction in pesticide usage and switches to use of more environmentally benign herbicides - see for example Brookes & Barfoot (2007) GM crops: the first ten years - global socio-economic and environmental impacts in Agbioforum 9 (3) on www.agbioforum.org.
  3. GM crops have made important contributions to alleviating hunger and poverty in developing countries. The majority of the farm income gains from using the technology have gone to small farmers in developing countries directly improving their standards of living and family level disposable income
  4. GM herbicide tolerant (GM HT) technology has mainly delivered farm income benefits from lower costs of production. Yield impacts have generally been neutral and yield improvement has not been a specific target of the technology - nevertheless, in some countries positive yield effects have occurred, eg, GM HT soybeans in Romania and Mexico.
  5. GM insect resistant (GM IR) technology has delivered important farm income benefits mainly from higher yields, especially in developing countries. In developed countries gains from this technology have tended to more associated with lowering costs of production (reduced use of insecticides) and less prominent (but still positive) yield gains
  6. Farmers are not being subjected to limited seed choice and high prices. The rapid adoption of GM technology reflects the significant benefits derived from using the technology relative to the additional costs paid for the technology (see Brookes & Barfoot referred to above). If the technology failed to deliver benefits, farmers would not use the technology. There remains plenty of choice in seed markets and the dominance of seeds containing biotech traits in some countries reflects market demand at the farm level. . There is a growing and substantial body of objective and representative evidence assessing the impact of biotech crops published in peer reviewed journals.
  7. There has not been a steep rise in the development of weed resistance to glyphosate as a result of the adoption and use of herbicide tolerant crops. All weeds have the ability to develop resistance to all herbicides and there are hundreds of resistant weed species confirmed in the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds (www.weedscience.org). Reports of herbicide resistant weeds pre-date the use of GM herbicide tolerant crops by decades.
Currently, there are 13 weed species that are resistant to glyphosate, compared to over 90 resistant to ALS herbicides, or over 60 weed species resistant to triazine herbicides such as atrazine. Several of the confirmed glyphosate resistant weed species have been found in areas where no GM herbicide tolerant crops have been grown. Control of glyphosate resistant weeds is achieved the same way as other herbicide resistant weeds, via the use of other herbicides in mixtures or sequences.
Crop biofuels 'create carbon debt'
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4238&language=1

Two new research papers indicate that biofuel production can carry an unrecognised cost by indirectly increasing carbon emissions.

Europe - EU

EU, US seek arbitration in biotech crops row
Jonathan Lynn, Reuters, Feb 8, 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssHealthcareNews/idUSL0862630920080208

GENEVA - The European Union and United States said on Friday they were seeking arbitration at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in their long-running row over the EU's ban on biotech crops.

But the two trading powers told the WTO's dispute settlement body they intended to suspend the request for arbitration to give themselves more time to work out a solution, trade officials said.

Crops engineered to resist pests and tolerate pesticides while improving yields are increasingly popular with farmers in rich and poor countries. But many EU consumers, keen on organic produce, are wary of eating "Frankenfoods", while advocacy groups say genetically modified (GMO) crops threaten biodiversity.
France to Formally Request GMO Ban at EU Level
Reuters via PlanetArk, Feb. 8, 2008
http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/46834/story.htm

PARIS - France will file a request with the European Union to formally ban the commercial use of the only genetically modified (GMO) crop grown in the country this Friday, Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said.

France issued an internal decree in December to suspend commercial use of MON 810, a maize developed by US biotech giant Monsanto until February 9. It has since said it would invoke what is known as a safeguard clause at European Union level to secure a more long term ban though it will be required to provide new, scientific proof of the risks posed by the GMO seed to succeed.

"I inform you that (the safeguard clause) will be formally and legally sent to Brussels tomorrow," Borloo told France 2 television on Thursday. France's senate has been locked in debate over the content of a new law on GMOs, expected to be examined by parliament in early April. The new law would respond to European Union requirements, since 2001, that member states formulate internal guidelines on the use of GMOs.
Halting growth
European protectionism is denying farmers access to advances in biotechnology and scientists the opportunity to compete
Jonathan DG Jones, The Guardian (UK), Feb. 7, 2008
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jonathan_dg_jones/2008/02/halting_growth.html

There's been a new furore in France about GM crops and Monsanto's MON810 corn. Rumours abound that the French government made a secret deal with the greens; in return for acceptance of nuclear power, the government would capitulate on GM crops.

A panel composed of distinguished French scientists and representatives of consumers, environmentalists, farmers and industry, was asked last autumn to re-evaluate the risks and benefits of MON810 corn for the environment and human health.

Unfortunately for the government and its alleged deal, the panel report noted the MON810 corn shows reduced mycotoxin levels (good for consumers) and only pointed out that some new data had emerged since 1998, and that toxicology, ecotoxicology and economic impact should continue to be monitored.

No matter; the chairman in oral testimony misrepresented the written report - referring, for example, to "serious doubts", though such language was absent from the report - and the French government decided to continue restricting a yield-increasing, health-promoting, environmentally beneficial technology, that French maize farmers want to use, and that Spanish maize farmers plant on many thousands of hectares. Result; outrage from most of the scientists on the panel at this triumph of politics over data and a renewed call from leading French scientists for rational appraisal of this extraordinarily promising approach to crop improvement.
GMO approval and feed
In order to avoid shock to European livestock due to GMO approval red tape (see http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/envir/gmo/economic_impactGMOs_en.pdf)

The European Grain Traders Association (COCERAL), the EU Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL) and the European Feed Manufacturers Federation (FEFAC) urgently call upon the EU and Member States for the establishment of a threshold for the presence of GMOs, which have undergone a feed and food safety risk assessment in and outside the EU according to the CODEX GM plant guideline.

COCERAL is the acronym for "Comité du commerce des céréales, aliments du bétail, oléagineux, huile d'olive, huiles et graisses et agrofournitures" and is considered as the voice representing the European cereals, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats and agrosupply trade". The Members of COCERAL are the national trade organisations of most of the EU-27 Member States, who for their part represent collectors, distributors, exporters, importers and agribulk storers of the above-mentioned commodities. The members are composed of essentially private traders and in some countries also farmers' cooperatives.

FEFAC (Fédération Européenne des Fabricants d'Aliments Composés), the European Feed Manufacturers' Federation, represents 21 national Associations in 20 EU Member States as well as Associations in Switzerland, Turkey and Norway with observer/associate member status. The European compound feed industry employs over 100,000 persons on app. 4,000 production sites often in rural areas, which offer few employment opportunities.

FEDIOL (the EU Oil and Proteinmeal Industry) represents the interests of the European seed and bean crushers, meals producers and vegetable oils producers/processors. FEDIOL members crush 30 million tonnes of oilseeds a year, produce 20 million tonnes of meals and 9 million tonnes of vegetable oils and further process 7 million tonnes of imported oils. There are some 150 oilseeds processing and vegetable oils and fats production facilities across Europe, employing approximately 20 000 people.
Proposals to authorise soybean A2704-12 and cotton LL25 to be transmitted to the Council
European Commission (press release), Feb. 12, 2008
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/220&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en and http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm

Brussels - The Commission presented today to the Member States proposals for the authorisation of genetically modified soybean A2704-12 and cotton LL25 for import and processing and food and feed use.

The Commission tabled the proposals following applications submitted by Bayer CropScience and favourable scientific assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which addressed all safety concerns. The assessments concluded that there is no risk to human or animal health or to the environment. According to the relevant procedures the Commission must now transmit the file to the Council for a decision. If the Council does not reach a position within three months, the proposals will be sent back to the Commission for final adoption.
Commission requires certification for Chinese rice products to stop unauthorised GMO from entering the EU
European Commission (press release), Feb. 12, 2008
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/219&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Brussels - The European Commission decided today to require compulsory certification for the imports of Chinese rice products that could contain the unauthorised GMO Bt63. The decision has been taken after rice products -originating in, or consigned from, China and containing the unauthorised genetically modified rice "Bt 63"- were discovered in the EU market between 2006 and 2007.

The emergency measures adopted by the Commission today mean that, as of April 15, only consignments of the rice products indicated in a specific Annex of the Decision can enter the EU. These consignments must be tested by an official or accredited laboratory using a specific testing method and accompanied by the analytical report assuring they do not contain Bt63.

Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "Under EU food safety legislation, only GMOs, which have undergone a thorough scientific assessment and authorisation procedure, may be put on the EU market. The decision adopted today aims to prevent the unauthorised Bt63 rice from reaching EU consumers, by ensuring that only rice products certified as free from this GMO enter the EU."
Newsletter of the European Commission Scientific Committees dealing e.g., with nano-risks is available at
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/news/newsletters/january2008_en.pdf

Policy decisions – especially at the European level – are never easy. What policy-makers decide will potentially affect the lives of millions of people for many years. Recognising the power of science to serve the decision-making process, the European Commission funded over 250 projects under its ‘Scientific support to policies’ (SSP) initiative under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for Research. These projects are summarised in the Information Centre and described in more detail on the SSP web site.

Research infocentre http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/index_en.cfm brings following topics:

EUROCROP employs a cross-cutting approach which focuses on:

bulletArable crops (cereals, oilseeds, sugar beets, fibre crops, potatoes, grain legumes and maize)
bulletTransversal elements of competitiveness including technical aspects at farming level, farm economics and production costs, outlets and markets, quality of agricultural products, environmental impacts and socio-economic issues

These topics will be addressed by specialists and invited experts, in a series of workshops. The main results of this 32 months coordination action will be a strategic research plan and the establishment of a European network of experts.

Contribution to policy development:

bulletThe project will help develop a common vision of Europe's arable crop R&D needs.
bulletBy prioritising R&D objectives, it will enhance the cost- and socio-economic benefits in this field.
bulletThe project will develop recommendations for policy improvements on ethical and health standards and environmental protection in arable agriculture.
Agriculture - Planting the seeds for sustainable farming and forestry
"Meeting societal demands for sustainable agriculture"
Revising organic standards for Regulation 2092/91
“To promote the ethical standards of organic agriculture.”
Better coordinated European agricultural and food research
“Integrating EU agri-food research through to 2020.”
The value of knowing where our food comes from
“To build a scientific case for geographical indication labels.”

Europe

Poland to hamper GMO planting despite lifting ban
Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters via Guardian Unlimited (UK), Feb. 8, 2008
http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7293691

MOSCOW - Poland will seek to make planting of genetically modified seeds nearly impossible for local farmers even though it plans to lift an official ban to comply with EU law, the agriculture minister told Reuters on Friday.

European Union regulators launched legal action against Poland last month over plans that amounted to a national GMO ban by its biggest ex-communist member. Lawyers for the European Commission said it had no scientific justification.

"We will delay the farming of genetically modified animal feed as much as possible because there is no social acceptance for it," Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki told Reuters during a Moscow visit with the Polish prime minister. "According to EU law we cannot forbid it, but we can make it as difficult as possible, setting additional requirements, such as obtaining permission by neighbours," he said.
Poland sticking to planned GMO livestock fodder ban
EUbusiness, Feb. 12, 2008
http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1202832121.07

(WARSAW) - Poland is sticking to plans to ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock fodder, despite an earlier rethink, the agriculture ministry announced Tuesday.

Ministry spokeswoman Malgorzata Ksiazyk told AFP that the government had decided to put on ice a move to amend a restrictive law that is due to come into force on August 1.

Poland's previous conservative-nationalist administration, which clashed regularly with Brussels on a host of issues, had in 2006 announced that it would ban GMOs in fodder from this year. Despite the expectations that Warsaw would change tack in the wake of the conservatives' defeat in a snap election last October, the new government "shares the viewpoint on GMOs" of its predecessor, Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki told reporters after a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Under the rules of the 27-nation EU, a member state has the right to apply a "safeguard clause" against GMO products if it can provide scientific evidence to question their safety.

But last year the EU's executive body, the European Commission, found fault with Poland's proposed law, saying Warsaw had failed to come up with the required proof of risks to the environment or people. Despite the planned fodder rules, Poland is to continue allowing the import of genetically modified food for human consumption, provided it is clearly labelled as containing GMOs and cannot be transformed into other products.
Fickle European GM policies stifle competition, say experts
Laura Crowley, FoodNavigator, Feb. 4, 2008
http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=82986-europabio-gm-crop-competition-research

The unstable political situation surrounding the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops is restricting university research and pushing small companies out of the arena, thereby restricting competition. Biotech company BASF Plant Science sought to intensify its activities in Asia Pacific with an agreement with China's National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS).

Mette Johansson, BASF manager of communications said: "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.”

"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.

Natalie Moll, a director at Europabio, the European Association for Bioindustries, told FoodNavigator.com: "The agricultural industry is lacking courageous people who are willing to take the chances in an area where the market is uncertain. Only big companies can survive." According to Moll, there is a backlog of 30 or 40 products waiting for approval in Europe. Last year, there were only four approvals out of 45. Many smaller companies just cannot afford to wait the customary 10 years for the process to be completed.

As European member states struggle to agree on a biotech policy, with different countries applying their own bans and restrictions on GM research and cultivation, research and development is being sacrificed.

Other victims of the tough political situation placing challenges on the biotech industry are universities. Moll said the number of biotech university courses in Europe has dramatically decreased as students do not want to enter an industry where the future is uncertain. She said: "There is a severe lack of European innovative power. When is Europe going to take farmers needs more seriously and develop a biotech policy that supports them?"

Ricardo Gent, managing director of the German Association of Biotechnology Industries, told www.FoodNavigator.com  that universities are afraid to enter into GM field trials in Germany, because liability regulations mean they would have to foot a large bill should neighbouring fields become contaminated. Again, this means large companies are the only ones able to carry out extensive biotech research, draining the industry of competition.
Euro Ministers Must Support New Crisis Measures
ThePigSite, Feb. 19, 2008
http://www.thepigsite.com/swinenews/17110/euro-ministers-must-support-new-crisis-measures

EU - European pigmeat producers are facing an unprecedented crisis, with prices for pig feed having risen by almost 50 percent in recent months due to the low availability of feedstuffs, reports the UK's National Pig Association.

This increase has not been offset by a corresponding increase in the price of the meat, which instead has fallen by eight percent, says Copa, the European farmers' union, in a press statement. Producers are now losing up to Ł26 a pig.

Jean-Michel Lemetayer, president of Copa, and Gert Van Dijk , president of Cogeca, said, "Given that the market situation remains critical, urgent action is needed." Widen Export Refunds COPA and COGECA are calling on Brussels to widen the use of export refunds and to extend the storage period of pork currently in cold stores under Brussels' storage subsidy scheme, which ended in November.
UK gives US$14 million boost to agriculture research
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4252&language=1

[LONDON] The United Kingsom's development aid agency has linked up with one of its largest research councils to boost research into sustainable agriculture in developing countries.

The US$14 million, four-year research programme — launched jointly by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in London yesterday (21 February) — will explore ways in which modern biological techniques can be applied to agriculture.
Food Supply Fears Heighten UK Debate On GMO Crops
Nigel Hunt, Reuters via PlanetArk, Feb. 20, 2008
http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/47053/story.htm

LONDON - Rising food prices due partly to soaring demand in China are increasing pressure on Europe to boost harvests and could help turn the tide in favour of genetically modified crops despite widespread public opposition.

Opponents have cited concerns that GMO crops could have a negative environmental impact and could even pose a risk to human health. European Union governments have been unable to reach a consensus to speed up authorisations. "We have to face up to the issue of genetic modification and rise to the challenge of helping to foster a fair and scientific debate on an issue that has typically been clouded by suspicion and a lack of trust," Iain Ferguson, chief executive of Tate & Lyle Plc said on Tuesday. Ferguson, who is also president of Britain's Food and Drink Federation, told the National Farmers Union annual conference it was increasingly difficult for food companies to be able to make products without genetically modified ingredients.

Demand for food is rising sharply in China, India and several other countries and is expected to continue to increase, boosted by both economic expansion and population growth.

NFU president Peter Kendall, however, told the conference that food production needed to double and possibly treble over the next 40 years and "developing the agricultural potential of this country to its fullest is actually a moral issue".

„It is acutely painful to me to see how we have allowed our science base to run down. Part of the problem is the aversion to new technology and risk that has been fostered by a section of our society," he said. "The NFU has called for a new and intelligent debate about new technology. We must start that debate now."
Fewer Britons fear dangers of GM food
Denis Campbell, The Observer (UK), Feb. 24, 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/24/food.genetics?gusrc=rss&feed=science

Only one in five Britons is worried about the dangers of genetically modified food, new research shows. Just 20 per cent of 2,627 people questioned by the Food Standards Agency said they were concerned.

The finding will disappoint groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth which have campaigned against GM foods. The 20 per cent figure is the lowest yet recorded in the agency's annual consumer attitudes survey, and fewer than half the 43 per cent who voiced unease in 2000.

The poll also found that almost half those questioned did not know the difference between 'use by' and 'sell by' dates on food. The amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in food remains the main area of concern.
GM firms seeking crop trial secrecy in UK
Evening Standard (London), Feb. 16, 2008
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23438053-details/GM+firms+seeking+crop+trial+secrecy/article.do

Biotechnology firms are lobbying the Government to promise greater secrecy for future genetically-modified crop trials, it has emerged. They are concerned about the cost of the damage likely to be caused by anti-GM activists if the precise locations of fields hosting experiments continue to be made public. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was concerned by the threat to "legitimate research" and was considering options to reduce the risk of GM crops being vandalised.

Under European law the location of GM crops must be published, but biotech firms want Defra to hold the information on a restricted register or release less specific details, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Julian Little, of GM industry group the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, told the paper: "We've been very clear to Government. "We have to find a way of reducing the amount of damage you get when you do a field trial in the UK, that's absolutely imperative. "Our view is we need greater security, or we need to reduce the visibility of the trials." A Defra spokeswoman said: "We are considering options that would reduce the risk of crops being vandalised. However, at present there are no specific plans to change Government policy in this area." A report published this week showed the global use of GM crops increased by 12% last year to reach 114 million hectares across 23 countries.
Germany gives green light to label designating 'GM free' foods
Associated Press via International Herald Tribune, Feb. 15, 2008
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/15/europe/EU-GEN-Germany-Biotech.php

BERLIN: Germany's upper house of parliament gave the green light Friday to a new label that will declare foods that contain no genetically modified organisms "GM Free."

Genetically modified foods are a sensitive topic in Germany, where environmental groups contend that many such crops are unsafe for humans and the environment.

Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has already approved the law, which is expected to go into effect in March.
Germany: Pig market crisis blamed on GM opponents.
Pig Progress.net, Feb. 5, 2008
http://www.pigprogress.net:80/news/id1602-43605/germany_pig_market_crisis_blamed_on_gm_opponents.html

Hans-Michael Goldmann, agriculture spokesman for the FDP, commented in a press statement that the problems on the German pig market are partly "home-made" as the government's "anti-innovation policy" is blocking biotechnology in Germany and Europe with inevitable consequences for feed prices.

On January 25, the Bundestag (German parliament) approved a draft Biotechnology Law stating the criteria for labelling products as GM-free and the conditions for growing GM crops. The German Farmers' Union (DBV) is advising its members to refrain from growing GM crops as yet because of uncertainties until the legislation has come into force.
67% Of Farmers Are Ready To Grow GMOs Immediately Says A Demoskopea Survey, Italy
ASSOBIOTEC [Associazione Nazionale per lo sviluppo delle biotecnologie/Italian National Biotech Association] (press release) via MedStore, Feb. 21, 2008
http://www.medstore.biz/news/26216/farmers-ready-grow-gmos-immediately-says-demoskopea/

Milan - 67% of maize growers in the main maize growing region of Italy, Lombardy, say they would be ready to cultivate GMOs immediately were they given the chance. 74% of them are also in favour of running field trials of GMOs in Italy so as to better understand the benefits.

These are the main findings of a survey on maize growers' perception of GMOs carried out on a representative sample of 532 farms in Lombardy by Demoskopea on behalf of Assobiotec, the Italian association of biotechnology industries, within Federchimica.

"The results show that the farmer base in Lombardy is open to innovation and biotechnology" says Elisabetta Brambilla, the survey coordinator. According to 80,6% of maize growers "it is absurd to ban the cultivation of GMOs while allowing their import for feed". 75,9% "feel unfairly penalised compared with farmers operating in other countries". 75,6% consider GMOs "an innovative agricultural instrument". And the underlying feeling for 74,8% of the farmers is that "farmers should be given the freedom to choose what to produce".

"We hope that those responsible for the legislative framework in Italy will finally end the ideological hostility against GMOs and allow the benefits to be felt in Italy as well, starting with allowing field trials in the country.  This is no longer a request of industry alone, farmers are demanding the freedom to choose as well" concludes the President of Assobiotec.
Swiss grant permission to sow GM wheat in Zurich
Translated by Mark Inglin, CheckBiotech, Feb. 12, 2008
http://www.bafu.admin.ch/dokumentation/medieninformation/00962/index.html?lang=de&msg-id=17201

BERN, Switzerland - Genetically modified wheat can be sowed experimentally in the spring at the Agricultural Research Institute of Zurich-Reckenholz.

The Swiss Federal Department of the Environment (Bundesamt fuer Umwelt - "BAFU") has approved applications by the University of Zurich and the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).
Creed calls for open debate on genetically modified foods
FG Agriculture Spokesperson seeks honesty and clarity in face of food security issues
Fine Gael (press release), Feb. 8, 2008
http://www.finegael.ie/news/index.cfm/type/details/nkey/33436/pkey/653

Fine Gael Agriculture spokesperson Michael Creed T.D. (Ireland) has called for an open and frank debate on the issue of GM foods. Speaking at the AGM of Macroom Fine Gael, Deputy Creed has called for an end to the scaremongering and lies on the issue and is seeking civilised discussions on the matter. "Last year agriculture took a Euros160 million hit due to the EU Commission dragging its heels in permitting the usage of certain GM products in the production of Animal Feeds. All the while the EU was importing animals from other regions that are being fed on the very same products that the EU was banning here. This situation serves nobody, neither the farmer, who is losing financially, nor the consumer, who is being misled. It is ironic how those who accept the science behind global warming as gospel are often the first to deny the growing scientific support for genetically modified foods."

Monitoring of Key Non-Target Arthropods in Transgenic Maize is a new project announced by Slovak Center of Agricultural Research, Research Institute of Plant Production;
see http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/.

Africa

Bill Gates Aims to Save Africa
Ronald Bailey, Reason, Jan. 29, 2008
http://reason.com/news/show/124660.html

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is following in the footsteps of the Rockefeller Foundation by fomenting a Green Revolution for the 21st century.

In September 2006, the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations announced a joint $150 million effort to create an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Last week, the Gates Foundation upped its ante on boosting production by another $306 million. About half of these new grants will fund efforts to improve seeds and soils in Africa. The Gates Foundation has clearly identified the right target. "For the poorest people, GDP [gross domestic product] growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating outside the sector," according the World Bank's World Development Report 2008. But why did the Green Revolution not take off in Africa?

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has noted, "Poor infrastructure, high transport costs, limited investment in irrigation, and pricing and marketing policies that penalized farmers made the Green Revolution technologies too expensive or inappropriate for much of Africa." This list is basically an international bureaucracy's euphemism for saying that government corruption and mismanagement has kept African farmers poor.

America

Brazil gives final permit for GMO corn varieties
Roberto Samora and Inae Riveras, Reuters, Feb. 12, 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/companyNews/idUSN1226524620080212?sp=true

SAO PAULO - Brazil's National Biosafety Council (CNBS) gave the final clearance on Tuesday for two varieties of genetically modified corn for commercial use.

The varieties were insect-resistant MON 810 produced by Monsanto and Liberty Link made by Bayer CropScience, which is resistant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium.

"From the science and technology point of view, it was considered that the approved seeds are safe for human and animal consumption, and for the environment," Brazil's science minister, Sergio Rezende, told reporters.

USA

Ag economist: World grain demand straining U.S. supply
University of Purdue (press release), Feb. 20, 2008
http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008a/080220HurtGrain.html

With global demand for grain and oilseeds at record levels and a weak U.S. dollar, foreign buyers are outbidding domestic buyers for American grain. While the higher commodity prices are good for crop agriculture, there are disconcerting downsides.

The 2007 U.S. wheat crop is virtually sold out, while domestic soybean stocks soon will fall below a 20-day supply. Corn inventories are stronger, but with demand from export markets, the livestock industry and ethanol plants, supplies also could be just as scarce for the 2008 crop. The condition could become more serious if adverse weather trims U.S. crop yields this summer and fall.
Growers release brakes on biotech wheat
Scott Yates, Capital Press, Feb. 7, 2008
http://capitalpress.com/Main.asp?SectionID=94&ArticleID=39018

Washington, D.C. - The Joint Biotech Committee of U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers on Tuesday revealed an industry eager to get back in the biotech game. Committee members from the two wheat organizations, in Washington, D.C., for their annual meet, said they would even support the release of a genetically modified wheat trait in the U.S. before it is introduced in Australia or Canada.

In the past, a unilateral release was viewed as a major hurdle because of the perceived marketing advantage a non-genetically modified wheat supplier might have in a market like Japan, where the technology is viewed with suspicion.
Biotech Yield Endorsement Reviewed
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), web posting, Feb. 5, 2008
http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news4287.html

URBANA - Farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota will be able to receive discounts on crop insurance for non-irrigated corn grown for grain by using the Biotech Yield Endorsement (BYE), said a University of Illinois Extension farm financial management specialist.

To be eligible for the discount, farmers must plant hybrids containing Monsanto-based technology with the following three traits: Roundup Ready ® Corn 2, YieldGard® Corn Borer, and YieldGard ® Rootworm.

because Monsanto provided three years' of comprehensive field-trial data to the USDA Risk Management Agency indicating that Monsanto-based triple-stacks hybrids have lower yield losses than conventional hybrids under drought and other stress conditions. Because yield losses are expected to be less, insurance payments are expected to be less," he said. "Lower expected payments then justify lower crop insurance premiums."
Ray Wu, Cornell's acclaimed pioneer of genetic engineering and developer of widely grown, hardy rice, dies at 79
Cornell University (press release), Feb. 14, 2008
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb08/WuObit.bpf.html

Ray J. Wu, Cornell professor of molecular biology and genetics, who was widely recognized as one of the fathers of plant genetic engineering, from which sprang the development of widely grown rice plants resistant to pests, drought and salt, died at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca Feb. 10. He was 79. The cause of death was cardiac arrest.

In 1970 Wu developed the first method for sequencing DNA and some of the fundamental tools for DNA cloning (sequencing involves determining the base sequence in a DNA molecule). After several innovative modifications by other scientists to greatly speed up the process, the same strategy is still being used today, and led to the DNA sequence determination of the entire genomes of rice and human, among other organisms -- helping scientists to understand different genetic traits.

Born in China and educated in the United States, Wu was a scientific adviser to the governments of both China and Taiwan. As such he exerted great influence on U.S.-Chinese cooperation in biological science and education.

China

Origin Agritech Announces World's First Genetically Modified Phytase Corn
Phytase Corn developed by Leading Biotech Scientists in China GM Phytase Corn Saves Feed Costs and Improves the Environment
Origin Agritech Ltd. (press release), Feb. 27, 2008 http://www.centredaily.com/business/technology/story/431951.html

BEIJING  -  Origin Agritech Limited (NASDAQ GS: SEED) ("Origin"), a leading technology-focused supplier of crop seeds and agri-biotech research in China, today announced it has licensed a new genetically modified corn to officially introduce the next generation of corn product into China. Origin's phytase corn is expected to be one of the first transgenic corn approved and sold commercially into the domestic marketplace. Transgenic phytase corn is expected to be commercially launched in 2009.

In China, annual fecal phosphorus from animals totals 2.5 million tons which has led to serious environmental problem. The usage of this product should also reduce the phosphorus pollution caused by animal waste and excess fertilizer use. Phytic acid in animal manure is a major source of phosphate pollution. Phytase decreases the excretion of organic phosphorus in feces by 40%, thus largely reducing phosphate pollution.

Phytase transgenic corn has passed the Ministry of Agriculture evaluation for safety in the transgenic "intermediate-test" and "environmental-release" stages and is currently in the final stage of evaluation for "production test" safety. Phytase is currently used as an additive in animal feed to breakdown phytic acid in corn, which holds 60% of the phosphorus in corn. Phytase increases phosphorus absorption in animals by 60%. Phosphorus is an essential element for the growth and development of all animals, and plays key roles in skeletal structure and in vital metabolic pathways. Phytase, as an additive for animal feed, is mandatory in Europe, Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan for environmental purposes.

The worldwide phytase potential market size is US$500 million, including US$200 million for China alone, according to the China Feed Industry Study. The corn seed market in China is estimated at US$1 billion. While currently microbiology is universally used to produce phytase, Origin plans to be the world's first to introduce transgenic phytase corn.
Regulations 'hinder' China biotech investment
Jia Hepeng
9 January 2008
Source: SciDev.Net
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4174&language=1

[BEIJING] China's biotechnology industry has seen tremendous growth in recent years, but a more favourable environment is needed to attract investors to the capital-thirsty sector, according to a new study.
Sarah Frew and colleagues from the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto, Canada, interviewed the management of 22 innovative Chinese health biotechnology firms. They published their findings this week (7 January) in Nature Biotechnology.

The authors write that China's health biotechnology industry has maintained an annual growth rate of 30 per cent. Although 90 per cent of China's US$3 billion market in 2006 was in generic drugs, Chinese firms have also successfully developed several innovative biotechnology drugs, such as the world's first commercialised gene therapy Gendicine.

Massive government support is behind the growth — the authors found that nearly all the companies studied have received some form of the government funding. Additionally, a large number of returnees from the West is driving China's biotechnology boom, with their expertise and links to international academia, industry and capital.

Yet the authors find that the prosperous picture of health biotechnology in China cannot hide the lack of capital, especially venture capital — key to the success of high-risk fields. In addition, reliance on government funding could "make the business environment less fair".

The authors explain this is because China has strict requirements for listing in the stock market — which often exclude biotechnology start-ups — as well as limitations on transferring currency to foreign countries, making it difficult for investors to withdraw their money.

"At the present time, there is not yet enough of an incentive for investors to invest in a high-risk sector with long timelines to profitability, when there is money to be made more quickly in other less risky sectors," Frew told SciDev.Net.

Agreeing that the lack of investment is a key problem, Yu Zailin — president of Tianjin SinoBiotech and an interviewee for the study — says the lack of a mechanism for money to leave the country might not be the most important barrier.

"Domestic venture capitalists are too eager to see a [successful] result which does not work for the biotech drugs whose development period could be many years," he told SciDev.Net.

Yu adds that international investors are reluctant to invest in China's biotechnology industry because they are too unfamiliar with Chinese regulations.

Reference: Nature Biotechnology, 26, 37 (2008)
Traditional Chinese medicine under the microscope
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4235&language=1

Chinese scientists are about to start a 15-year project to analyse the constituents of traditional Chinese medicines. [Source: Science]

Asia

ASA Welcomes Regulatory Approvals for Next Generation Soybean Seed in Key Asian Countries
American Soybean Association, press release, Feb. 5, 2008
http://www.soygrowers.com/newsroom/releases/2008_releases/r020508.htm

Saint Louis, Missouri... The American Soybean Association (ASA) is pleased that final regulatory approvals have been received in Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan for Monsanto's, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® (MON 89788). U.S. soybean producers anticipate commercialization of this new product in 2009

RP cited as top GM corn producer
Melody M. Aguiba, Manila Bulletin, Feb 17, 2008 http://www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=47040

The Philippines landed in 2007 on the tenth position among world's biggest countries planting biotechnology crops with genetically modified (GM) corn's consistent growth at now 250,000 hectares.

South Korea breaks GMO taboo with first corn deal
Angela Moon, Reuters, Feb. 26, 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSSEO209720080226

SEOUL - South Korea has for the first time bought genetically-modified corn for food, risking a backlash from consumer groups to secure cheaper grains. On Tuesday South Korea, one of only two countries in Asia to stick with more expensive non-GMO corn for food use, said it will import 50,000 tons of U.S. genetically-altered corn in May for manufacturing starch and sweeteners.

Trade sources said the decision was economic. Corn that has not been modified costs around $50 a ton more than the genetically-altered variety, an important factor when corn prices have more than doubled in the last two years.

But it has drawn ire from consumer groups, who say it will expose consumers to possible health risks, echoing European resistance to what lobby groups there call "Frankenstein foods." The price of non-genetically altered corn was about $150 per ton on average in 2006 and has risen to more than $400 in recent months.

India

Bt cotton acreage touches 66% in current season
The Financial Express (India), Feb. 5, 2008
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Bt-cotton-acreage-touches-66-in-current-season/269096/

Mumbai - Cultivation area of transgenic Bt cotton in the country has reached 63.3 lakh hectares or 66% of the total estimated cotton area of 95.3 lakh hectares during the current season 2007-08.

GM crops hold key to food security: Expert
Sourav Mishra & Abhishek Shanker, The Economic Times (India), Feb. 26, 2008
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-2813968,prtpage-1.cms

India surpassed the US to become the second biggest producer of cotton in 2006-07, after adopting GM crops. India's GM cotton area is estimated at 6.3 million hectares or 66% of the total cotton area in 2007-08, up from 3.7 million hectares in 2006-07, according to Cotton Advisory Board. The government allowed commercial cultivation of bacillus thuringiensis or Bt cotton, the country's first GM crop in 2002, leading to protests from activists, who say GM crops are a health hazard. This delayed approval of GM food crops. The country's first expected GM food crop is brinjal. Field trials of GM brinjal started in August 2007 and is expected to be commercialised by 2009, said CD Mayee, a senior scientist, and chairman Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board.

Among food crops the big opportunity is in rice.India, second largest rice producer, is field testing GM rice, and expects commercialisation by 2011, Mayee said. In rice, India is competing with China, the largest producer. China is in final stages of commercialising GM rice.

Other

GM bananas in field trials
ABC Rural (Australia), Feb 6, 2008
http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/2007/s2155600.htm

Australia's first genetically modified bananas could be growing in North Queensland by mid-year. Scientists from the Queensland University of Technology will trial Cavendish bananas with extra genes that increase the levels of pro-vitamin A and iron in the fruit. The technology will then be used to improve banana varieties in Uganda, where mineral and vitamin deficiencies are a big problem.

News in Science

Collagen from plants
- Nicky Blackburn, Israel21c, Feb. 12, 2008 http://www.israel21c.org/bin/en.jsp?enDispWho=Articles%5El1972&enPage=BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=object&enVersion=0&enZone=Health

Collagen is one of the most important proteins in the human body. Twenty-five percent of all dry material in the body is made of collagen. Tendons are almost 100% collagen, skin 70%, and bone 50%. As a result collagen today is in great demand for anything from aesthetic facial procedures - such as lip augmentation, or wrinkle treatment, to plastic surgery, tissue regeneration, wound and burn healing, and orthopedics. The facial aesthetic industry alone is expected to be worth $1 billion by the year 2010, while sales of collagen-based products are estimated to be now worth more than $10 billion worldwide.

Until recently the majority of collagen used in the market came from cows or pigs. The problem with this, however, is the growing concern over infectious diseases passed on from animals to humans, in particular Mad Cow Disease. In certain countries like Japan it is now illegal to use collagen from animals, while in January last year, the FDA suggested that it may limit the use of bovine derived collagen in medical devices. In addition, while most people tolerate collagen from animals, some have an allergic reaction.

The research of collagen producton in plants was developed in the Rehovot by Shoseyov, a professor at the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Meytav Technological Enterprises Innovation Center, a technology incubator in Kiryat Shmona help starting a new company, CollPlant with Shoseyov as chief scientist. CollPlant expects to begin selling its collagen by the end of this year. Clinical trials are not necessary, to get FDA and CE approval, the company needs only to carry out trials in toxicology and safety, which have already been successfully carried out according to Shoseyov. Testing of CollPlant's collagen has shown that it is similar to type 1 collagen naturally present in human tissues.
Bacterium sequenced makes rare form of chlorophyll
Washington University in St. Louis (press release) via EurekAlert, Feb. 4, 2008
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-02/wuis-bsm020408.php

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and Arizona State University have sequenced the genome of a rare bacterium that harvests light energy by making an even rarer form of chlorophyll, chlorophyll d. Chlorophyll d absorbs "red edge," near infrared, long wave length light, invisible to the naked eye.

In so doing, the cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina, competes with virtually no other plant or bacterium in the world for sunlight. As a result, its genome is massive for a cyanobacterium, comprising 8.3 million base pairs, and sophisticated. The genome is among the very largest of 55 cyanobacterial strains in the world sequenced thus far, and it is the first chlorophyll d -containing organism to be sequenced.

Robert Blankenship. Ph.D., Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University published a paper on their work in the Feb. 4, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists unveil draft sequence of corn genome
Washington University in St. Louis (press release), Feb. 25, 2008
http://www.physorg.com/news123173068.html

The genetic blueprint will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 28, by the project's leader, Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center, at the 50th Annual Maize Genetics Conference in Washington, D.C.

The $29.5 million project was initiated in 2005 and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The team working on the endeavor, including scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and Iowa State University, has already made the sequencing information accessible to scientists worldwide by depositing it in GenBank, an online public DNA database. The genetic data is also available at www.maizesequence.org.

The draft covers about 95 percent of the corn genome, and scientists will spend the remaining year of the grant refining and finalizing the sequence. "Although it's still missing a few bits, the draft genome sequence is empowering," Wilson explains. "Virtually all the information is there, and while we may make some small modifications to the genetic sequence, we don't expect major changes."

The genetic code of corn consists of 2 billion bases of DNA, the chemical units that are represented by the letters T, C, G and A, making it similar in size to the human genome, which is 2.9 billion letters long. By comparison, the rice genome is far smaller, containing about 430 million bases. About 80 percent of the DNA segments are repeated, and corn also has 50,000 to 60,000 genes, roughly double the number of human genes. Mobile genes, or transposons, make up a significant portion of the genome, further complicating sequencing efforts.
Biofuel: Gene scientists find secret to oil yield from corn
PhysOrg.com, Feb. 17, 2008
http://www.physorg.com/news122479297.html

Agricultural scientists in the United States have identified a key gene that determines oil yield in a corn, a finding that could have repercussions for the fast-expanding biofuels industry. The gene lies on Chromosome 6 of the maize genome, according to a paper published on Sunday by Nature Genetics. It encodes a catalysing enzyme called DGAT1-2, which carries out the final step in the plant's oil-making process. In addition, a tiny amino acid variant within this gene can boost the yield of oil and oleic acid -- the sought-after edible fat in corn -- by up to 41 percent and 107 percent respectively.

The paper, written by a team from the US chemicals and agribusiness giant DuPont, was based on a comparison of 71 strains of maize whose oil content ranged from low to high. DGAT is "a promising target for increasing oil and oleic-acid contents in other crops," say the authors, led by Bo Shen of DuPont unit Pioneer Hi-Bred International, in Johnston, Iowa.

Present-generation biofuels are derived from food crops such as corn, sugar cane and soybeans. Initially viewed as an environmentally-friendly alternative with no geopolitical risk compared with dirty fossil fuels, biofuels are now under attack as some unintended consequences emerge. The impacts include higher prices in the global food market as more fields are devoted to growing fuel rather than food, and the destruction of forests in Brazil and Indonesia as land is cleared for fuel crops.
Enhanced expression of phospholipase C 1 ( ZmPLC1 ) improves drought tolerance in transgenic maize
Chun-Rong Wang, et. al., Planta, doi:10.1007/s00425-007-0686-9 Jan. 24, 2008
http://www.springerlink.com:80/content/j37322j80t2h5181/?p=375ecc4012664065ac958b8bf8d0eecc?=0

Abstract: Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) plays an important role in a variety of physiological processes in plants, including drought tolerance. It has been reported that the ZmPLC1 gene cloned from maize (Zea mays L.) encoded a PI-PLC and up-regulated the expression in maize roots under dehydration conditions (Zhai SM, Sui ZH, Yang AF, Zhang JR in Biotechnol Lett 27:799-804, 2005). In this paper, transgenic maize expressing ZmPLC1 transgenes in sense or antisense orientation were generated by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and confirmed by Southern blot analysis. High-level expression of the transgene was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR and PI-PLC activity assay. The tolerance to drought stress (DS) of the homogenous transgenic maize plants was investigated at two developmental stages. The results demonstrated that, under DS conditions, the sense transgenic plants had higher relative water content, better osmotic adjustment, increased photosynthesis rates, lower percentage of ion leakage and less lipid membrane peroxidation, higher grain yield than the WT; whereas those expressing the antisense transgene exhibited inferior characters compared with the WT. It was concluded that enhanced expression of sense ZmPLC1 improved the drought tolerance of maize.

First documented case of pest resistance to biotech cotton
University of Arizona via PhysOrg.com, Feb. 7, 2008
http://www.physorg.com/news121614449.html

A pest insect known as bollworm is the first to evolve resistance in the field to plants modified to produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin, according to a new research report. Bt-resistant populations of bollworm, Helicoverpa zea, were found in more than a dozen crop fields in Mississippi and Arkansas between 2003 and 2006.

"What we're seeing is evolution in action," said lead researcher Bruce Tabashnik. "This is the first documented case of field-evolved resistance to a Bt crop."

Patents

Abstract: The invention relates to glyphosate tolerant sugar beet plants, plant material and seeds. It is the object of the invention to provide a transgenic sugar beet plant event that shows a high level of tolerance against glyphosate, but is not impaired in other important agronomic properties such as growth, yield, quality, pathogen resistance etc
Patent Number: 7,335,816
Publication Date: 26.02.2008
Assignee:
KWS SAAT AG (Einbeck, DE)
Published by: United States Patent Office
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