News in June 2008
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2008-06-30

Books & Articles

The first results of the new Standard Eurobarometer 69 Public Opinion in the European Union is available at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm
BiosafeRes database http://www.icgeb.org/~gmores/prod/index.php a worldwide, web-based, public-access database of past and current research projects in GMO biosafety. One of the prime objectives of the database is to facilitate researchers in developing countries wishing to increase contact with eminent biosafety scientists, and to develop collaborative projects with them. ICGEB is a member of the BIOSAFENET consortium.
FSA Publish Cloned Animal Research Report
The Poultry Site (UK), June 6, 2008
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/15089/fda-publish-cloned-animal-research-report

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today published research into the views of the UK public about cloning animals, and cloned animals, their offspring and their products (such as milk and eggs) entering the food chain. The full report can be found at http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/clonereport.pdf

Europe launch of a user-friendly web portal for Researchers

EU Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, launched EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion, the new brand overarching four initiatives for researchers to promote their mobility and career development. http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&lg=en&year=2008&na=na-240608

SCAR net: Web site on Agricultural research

Updated list of SCAR Collaborative Working Groups http://ec.europa.eu/research/agriculture/scar/index_en.cfm?p=3_coord

GLOBAL IMPACT OF BIOTECH CROPS

A comprehensive study on the global impact of biotech crops by PG Economics says that "biotech crop commercialization has resulted in significant global economic and environmental benefits and is making important contributions to global security". PG Economics Limited, based in the United Kingdom, is a specialist provider of advisory and consultancy services to agriculture and other natural resource-based industries.

The full report can be downloaded from http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk

Plant Breeding and related Biotechnology Capacity assessments
Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations (web posting), June 18, 2008
http://km.fao.org/gipb/pbbc/

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with several organizations, including the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), national programmes, private sectors, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has been assessing national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity worldwide. The main objective is to determine the needs and opportunities, providing a technical basis for defining capacity building options, and for shaping strategy and development policy to strengthen plant breeding in developing countries.

This version is the first release of the online database on the plant breeding and related biotechnology assessment (PBBC).

Genetically engineered plants and foods: A scientist's analysis of the issues (Part I)
Peggy G. Lemaux, Annual Review of Plant Biology (vol. 59), 2008
http://arjournals.annualreviews.org

Abstract: Through the use of the new tools of genetic engineering, genes can be introduced into the same plant or animal species or into plants or animals that are not sexually compatible-the latter is a distinction with classical breeding. This technology has led to the commercial production of genetically engineered (GE) crops on approximately 250 million acres worldwide. These crops generally are herbicide and pest tolerant, but other GE crops in the pipeline focus on other traits. For some farmers and consumers, planting and eating foods from these crops are acceptable; for others they raise issues related to safety of the foods and the environment. In Part I of this review some general and food issues raised regarding GE crops and foods will be addressed. Responses to these issues, where possible, cite peer-reviewed scientific literature. In Part II to appear in 2009, issues related to environmental and socioeconomic aspects of GE crops and foods will be covered.

A critical assessment of the effects of Bt transgenic plants on parasitoids
Mao Chen, Jian-Zhou Zhao, et. al., PLOS One, May 28, 2008
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2409141
European Research on Environment and Health - Projects of the Sixth Framework Programme A catalogue 'European Research on Environment and Health Funded by the Sixth Framework Programme' has been compiled. http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=whatsnew&CurrentMonth=June&CurrentYear=2008
Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries Since 1990

Agriculture can have significant impacts on the environment as it uses on average over 40% of water and land resources in OECD countries. The impacts occur on and off farm, including both pollution and degradation of soil, water and air. Now available from the Online Bookshop

Biotechnology Update
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology (ICGB), Apr. 30, 2008
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/1/40628456.pdf

This newsletter provides up-to-date information on OECD activities related to biotechnology. It is mainly intended for delegates to OECD meetings who are already familiar with certain aspects of OECD's work. We hope that it is also informative for the wider biotech community.

Transgenics and the Poor: Biotechnology in Development Studies
Ronald J Herring, ed., Routledge (paperback - ISBN 978-0-415-46876-3), 2008
http://www.routledge.com/books/Transgenics-and-the-Poor-isbn9780415380102
Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
Written by Dan Gardner Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Category: Social Science - Media Studies; Political Science; Psychology & Psychiatry
Format: Hardcover, 408 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7710-3299-8 (0-7710-3299-4), Pub Date: April 15, 2008 (Price: $34.99)
Shane H. Morris: EU biotech crop regulations and environmental risk: a case of the emperor’s new clothes? TRENDS in Biotechnology Vol.25 No.1
Second issue of the electronic GIPB-( Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building) Newsletter at gipb@fao.org.

Events

Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference
August 24-27, 2008, Cork, Ireland

ABIC 2008 will be hosted in University College Cork,Ireland from August 24th to 27th. The theme of ABIC 2008 Cork is Agricultural Biotechnology for a competitive and sustainable future. At a time when global agricultural faces significant challenges, an in depth discussion of how ag biotech can influence the sustainability of global agriculture while maintaining competitiveness is both timely and necessary.

Program/Speakers: http://www.abic.ca/ABIC2008/html/program.html; Registration: http://www.abic.ca/ABIC2008/html/registration.html.

Symposium "Amaranth - Plant for the Future"
Organised by the European Amaranth Association will be held on November 9 - 14, 2008 in Nitra, Slovak Republic. Contact alena.gajdosova@savba.sk

GLOBAL

Developing country biosafety capacity 'inadequate'
http://www.scidev.net/en/news/developing-country-biosafety-capacity-inadequate-.html

The report — published by the Japan-based United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies — assesses the major internationally funded biosafety-training programmes in the developing world. As many as 100 developing countries are unable to manage and monitor the use of modern biotechnologies adequately, a new report reveals As many as 100 developing countries are unable to manage and monitor the use of modern biotechnologies adequately, a new report reveals. This situation will only improve with increased funding and the identification of biosafety training needs at a local level, say the authors of the two-year study, published this week (27 May).

Europe - EU

On May 22 the European Parliament backed two amendments to a resolution on Rising food prices in the EU and the developing countries calling on the EU institutions to urgently discuss the use of modern biotechnology as one tool to help enable Europe respond to the rising food prices here and the developing world.

Amendment 28: “12e. Considers that the current crisis demands an immediate and thorough discussion among the EU institutions and the Member States on the role that modern biotechnology can play in ensuring the continued production of food at reasonable prices”

Amendment 3: “19b. Calls, in particular, for any developments on GMOs and public debate thereon to be followed closely.”

GM directive deficiencies in the European Union. The current framework for regulating GM crops in the EU weakens the precautionary principle as a policy tool (Morris SH, Spillane C.) EMBO Rep. 2008 Jun;9(6):500-4.
The causes of food allergies and what can be done against them are the primary topics of the EU-funded project EuroPrevall. The project is coordinated by Dr Clare Mills from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK. http://ec.europa.eu/research/star/index_en.cfm?p=64_main

Europe

EU judge says France should be fined 235,764 euros per day over GMO laws http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2008/06/05/afx5083359.html

A top EU judge said France should be fined 235,764 euros per day for not following an EU court ruling which said it failed to transpose EU laws from 2001 into national legislation on the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment The advocate general (AG), in a non-binding opinion, said Paris should be fined the daily sum until it conforms with a European Court of Justice ruling in July 2004 While AG opinions are non-binding, the final court judgment follows suit in around eight of ten cases.

French constitutional court upholds GMO law
James Mackenzie, Reuters, June 19, 2008
http://uk.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews/idUKL193996820080619

PARIS - France's constitutional council approved the main points of a law on genetically modified crops on Thursday after opposition Socialists had demanded a review. The Socialists and environmentalists said the bill blurred the line between natural and genetically modified organisms (GMO) but the constitutional council ruled that it conformed with the constitution. "The law, which provides for a preliminary system of authorisation for GMOs and makes their cultivation subject to evaluation, surveillance and control procedures does not fail to respect the principle of precaution when it allows coexistence of GMO and non-GMO crops," it said in a statement.

The Socialists and environmental campaigners had sought a complete overhaul of the law, which they say is too favourable to the interests of biotech companies such as U.S. giant Monsanto. The council ordered the government to amend one article concerning the types of information an applicant for a licence would have to provide. But the environment ministry said that would not stop the law, passed earlier this year after a tumultuous passage through parliament, from coming into force before the end of the year.

Genetically-modified crop field destroyed by eco-warriors
Vincent Moss, Sunday Mirror (UK), June 15, 2008
http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk:80/news/sunday/2008/06/15/gm-field-trashed-in-attack-98487-20607314/

Eco-warriors have destroyed an entire crop of genetically modified potatoes - wiping out vital research to help end famine worldwide. No one has claimed responsibility for the destruction of thousands of the spuds in a field near Tadcaster, North Yorks. But Environment Minister Phil Woolas, who had sanctioned the trial by scientists at Leeds University, last night launched a furious attack on the "gutless" group behind the incident.

Mr Woolas said: "The people behind this should have the guts to go public and join the debate about GM foods. Their arrogance appals me."

The attack on June 5 leaves Britain with just one remaining field of GM crops, government sources said last night.

NFU welcomes moves for debate on GM crops role
Sam Wood, The Journal (Newcastle), June 20, 2008
http://www.nebusiness.co.uk/farming-news/farming-news/2008/06/20/nfu-welcomes-moves-for-debate-on-gm-crops-role-51140-21109052/

The National Farmers Union has welcomed moves by the Government to start a debate about a greater role for GM crops. As world food prices continue to rise, Environment Minister Phil Woolas said yesterday that he wants a debate on the benefits of GM crops in offering greater yields, particularly in the developing world.
A spokesman for the NFU said: "We are pleased the Defra minister is finally talking about GM crops in an open, pragmatic and science-based way.

The Government has already decided that there is no scientific case for a blanket ban on GM crops, but following heated public debate about so-called "Frankenstein foods" it made clear in 2004 that commercial planting would go ahead only on a case-by-case basis if it can be shown to be safe for humans and the environment. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to argue in favour of cost cuts for GM products used in animal feed at the EU summit in Brussels later. Mr Brown is also expected to urge fellow leaders to look again at GM as a way of reducing the cost of food for the world's poorest countries.

Europe Must Also Support Innovations In Agriculture
Medical News Today, June 6, 2008
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/110220.php

The industry association of the German biotechnology, BIO Deutschland, demands against the background of tomorrow's meeting of EU Environment Ministers in Luxembourg, that the innovative potential of small and medium-sized seed producers be no longer hindered and that research in the area of plant biotechnology be clearly recognised.

Jens Katzek, member of BIO Deutschland's directors board. warned, "A restrictive European policy on innovation indirectly strengthens multinational companies, which are easily able to relocate research and development on new products to a more technology-friendly environment.

BIO Deutschland is a Berlin-based Biotechnology Industry Organisation of Germany, which has more than 200 members, including companies, BioRegions and sector service providers, has set itself the target of supporting and promoting the development of an innovative economic sector based on modern biosciences. Dr Peter Heinrich (CEO of MediGene AG) is Chairman of the Board of BIO Deutschland.

Costs to food business to rise if GM zero-tolerance prevails, warns CIAA
Lindsey Partos, FoodNavigator.com, June 16, 2008
http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=85924&c=gTN1p4qDILWBssrbN%2B8gSA%3D%3D

Europe's fast food industry calls for an end to 'uncertainty' over non EU-approved GM traces in foodstuffs, warning that new risks on the horizon could bring massive costs to the European supply chain. The CIAA, together with a swathe of other industry groups that includes European cereal group Coceral, the Federation of European Rice Millers, as well as flour and maize millers' associations, assert that minute levels of GM varieties approved elsewhere in the world, 'must be tolerated [in the EU] in order to avoid disruptions to the European food sector'. "A threshold of 0.5 per cent would be appropriate," Beate Kettlitz, director for food policy, science and R&D at the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), tells BakeryandSnacks.com. According to Beate Kettlitz, the food stakeholders, urging policymakers to seek 'practical and durable solutions' have already presented their findings to Europe's legislative executive, the European Commission. They have also asked their members, that include food firms such as ADM, Unilever and Kellogg's, to approach their respective national governments.

"It is simply impossible to guarantee the total absence of GM traces from countries where GM crops are widely grown," said Ruth Rawling, chairwoman of the EU's grain trade group, Coceral.

EU food/feed industries want GMO flexibility
AllAboutFeed.net, June 16, 2008
http://www.allaboutfeed.net/home/id102-55011/eu_foodfeed_industries_want_gmo_flexibility.html

Europe's grain and food sector have joined forces to demand tolerance for minimal amounts of genetically modified material not yet allowed in EU markets. EU feedmakers have long complained of problems sourcing raw material, warning that the consequences of Europe's extreme caution and "zero tolerance" of unauthorised GMOs, could be disastrous for the food and feed sectors.

Europe's food safety chief Markos Kyprianou has already promised to draft a proposal before early August that would permit very limited amounts - less than one percent - of unauthorised GM material to be detected in imports of foods like maize, rice and soybeans.

VIB and Bayer against plant stress

Crops resistant to abiotic stresses, such as high temperatures, drought and waterlogged conditions, will be needed. To this end, the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) and Bayer BioScience NV, the Flemish agro-biotech center of Bayer CropScience, are teaming up to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that make plants stress-resistant. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology in the Ghent University. Experiments will mainly focus on the roles of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) as important regulators of plant stress response. Read the press release at http://www.vib.be/NR/rdonlyres/E8FB2BC8-3D32-4D76-BFC1-9609FA07C689/2595/20080611_ENG_phoenixBayer_web.pdf

Bayer will use tobacco plants to produce medicines
First development candidate from the new plant for cancer indication non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - Clinical phase I could start in 2009 Bayer AG (press release), June 16, 2008
http://www.research.bayer.com/en/News_Detail.aspx?id=8320

Bayer and its subsidiary Icon Genetics have together developed a new production process that can be used to produce biotech drugs in tobacco plants. A new production facility for therapeutic proteins was inaugurated on June 16 in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, with a ceremony attended by guests from the scientific community, politics and business. In the future, the active substances produced in the tobacco plants could be used to develop new approaches to the therapy and prevention of diseases for which the current medical options are not satisfactory.

The Swiss National Foundation condemns the destruction of experimental GM crops
Swiss National Foundation (press release), June 13, 2008

The Swiss National Foundation condemns the partial ravaging of experimental sites with tests of genetically modified wheat at the AGROSCOPE research station in Reckenholz-Tänikon, Switzerland near Zurich. The field experiments are part of the National Research Programme No. 59 (NFP59) "Benefits and Risks of the field release of transgenic crops", being carried out  by the National Research Foundation with the mandate of the Swiss Government and approval of the Federal Office of Environment. // note: The 35 attackers gained entry to the facility after threatening guards with physical harm. Police arrested two men and three women, ages 29-39, after the incident. Motives for the attack are said to be unknown. See, "Attacke der Gentechnik Gegner", schweizmagazin.ch, June 14, 2008, http://schweizmagazin.ch/news/335/ARTICLE/4488/2008-06-14.html

Africa

More rice in Africa

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed a new rice growing system that could significantly boost production in West Africa. The new system, termed 'Sawah' (Indonesian for "wet rice-field"), makes it possible to grow the crop in the region's wetlands with more than twice the yield of traditional dryland rice farms. Yield of as high as 3.5 tons per hectare has been recorded, compared to the average 1.5 tons per hectare yield in traditional lowland rice farms. IITA estimates that some 10 million rice farmers stand to benefit from the adoption of the Sawah system.

View the press release at http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=1615&zoneid=81

America

ARGENTINA APPROVES NEW GM MAIZE VARIETY

Argentina's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food recently approved the commercial release of the genetically modified maize line 1507xNK603. The maize line, jointly developed by Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer Hi-Bred, harbors the Herculex I insect protection gene stacked with the glufosinate ammonium Roundup Ready Corn II gene.1507xNK603 has been approved for cultivation in the United States and Canada. The GM maize can also be imported and used for food and feed by several countries around the world. The newly approved GM variety is resistant to the stem borer, sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis) and the fall armyworm, pests that severely limit maize production in the region.

Read the complete article (in Spanish) at hhttp://www.porquebiotecnologia.com.ar/doc/reportes/result_indiv.asp?Id=4067

Brazil is introducing Syngenta Bt11 corn
Dow Jones, June 19, 2008
http://www.easybourse.com/bourse-actualite/marches/brazilian-commission-approves-syngenta-s-gmo-corn-474416?PHPSESSID=6e12ace27a400ea705d5b023182b9f3d

Brazil's National Biosafety Commission, or CTNBio, has approved Swiss multinational seed company Syngenta's (SYT) transgenic corn, a CTNBio press officer confirmed Thursday.

China

Biogas from rice straw

Chinese scientists have developed a new method that dramatically increases the yield of a clean biogas fuel from rice straw. Chinese scientists have developed a new method that dramatically increases the yield of a clean biogas fuel from rice straw. Until now, using the straw to produce ethanol or biogas — a mix of methane and carbon dioxide — by anaerobic digestion with microorganisms has been disappointing. The complex structures of the straw's cellulose and lignin components make it hard for the microorganisms to break them down. Li's team treated it with a small amount of alkaline solution containing six per cent sodium hydroxide. They found that this significantly increased straw biodegradation, and improved biogas output by 64.5 per cent. http://www.scidev.net/en/news/researchers-boost-yields-of-rice-waste-biofuel-.html

Other Asia

GM food halal

Indonesian Minister of Agriculture, Anton Apriyantono, pointed out that the government is now serious in controlling and managing biotechnology-derived foods to remain halal and fit for consumption by Muslims in Indonesia. He added that the biotechnology products must be exempted from haram ingredients. This also applies for fermentation production processes. For more information, contact the Indonesia Biotechnology Information Center at b.purwantara@biotrop.org.

News in Science

New study shows that transgenic plants don't hurt beneficial bugs
Cornell University (press release), June 3, 2008
http://www.physorg.com/news131726113.html

Genetically modified (GM) plants that use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a common soil bacterium, to kill pests won't harm the pests' natural enemies, according to new research by Cornell entomologists.

The research showed that GM plants expressing Bt insecticidal proteins are not toxic to a parasite that lives inside the caterpillar of the diamondback moth, a devastating worldwide vegetable pest. It was published in the May 27 issue of the online scientific journal PLoS One.

To separate out the effect of insecticides and Bt proteins on the caterpillar and parasite, the Cornell researchers isolated and bred strains of caterpillars that were resistant to Bt or a conventional or organic insecticide. Then the caterpillars were parasitized with a wasp that kills the caterpillar in nature. The resistant caterpillars were then either fed GM plants expressing the Bt protein or non-GM plants sprayed with the Bt protein, conventional insecticides or organic insecticides. The parasitized caterpillars that ate plants treated with conventional and organic insecticides to which they were resistant, survived and developed into moths because the parasite was killed by the insecticide the caterpillar ingested. However, when the caterpillar fed on the Bt-sprayed plants or Bt plants, the parasite was not affected and killed its host caterpillar when it emerged as an adult wasp, showing that Bt plants are not toxic to the parasite.

Ten years of Bt maize cultivation: Horizontal gene transfer of no significance
GMO Safety, May 30, 2008
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/645.docu.html

Scientists from France and Switzerland have been studying soil bacteria from a field where genetically modified Bt maize Bt176 has been growing for 10 years. They wanted to find out whether controversial antibiotic-resistance genes can in fact transfer from transgenic plants to bacteria, as is widely feared. They have concluded that transgenic plants play no part in the spread of antibiotic resistances.

Bt 176 maize contains a "bla gene" (blaTEM116) as a marker gene, in addition to the gene which makes it resistant to the corn borer . This gene confers ampicillin and carbenicillin resistance by producing a specific beta-lactamase enzyme . It is one of the most commonly occurring bla genes from a whole family of beta-lactamases. The corresponding antibiotics, which include penicillin, are the largest group of antibiotics used in medicine. Gene transfer from plant DNA to bacteria is considered to be highly unlikely because a whole series of conditions are required before it can occur at all. As yet, this type of horizontal gene transfer has not been detected under field conditions. Even in the laboratory, it could only be provoked with the help of specially constructed recipient bacteria.

The researchers initially studied only those bacteria from the soil samples which could be propagated on a culture medium. These account for less than 1 percent of soil micro-organisms. Between 0.4 and 8 percent of these bacteria from the soil samples collected from agricultural land were found to be resistant to ampicillin. It made no difference whether conventional or Bt maize had been grown on the fields. However, the number of resistant bacteria varied significantly between the cultivated soils on the one hand and the prairie soil on the other, which had a very high proportion of resistant bacteria. According to the scientists, this is an indication that bacterial communities which are not affected by farming practices have a higher proportion of naturally occurring antibiotic resistances. Bacteria which produce antibiotics themselves often carry resistance genes for their own protection.

The resistance genes identified were then examined in more detail using molecular-biological methods (PCR). A bla gene was identified in 505 of the 576 bacteria (87.7 percent). According to the authors, this indicates the natural preference for these genes amongst ampicillin-resistant soil bacteria.

Eighty of the PCR results were broken down further. Among other things, ten blaTEM116 genes were found, distributed over all the soil types. This indicates that the ampicillin-resistance gene, which was used for Bt176, is also found in soils where no transgenic plants have been grown. This is not surprising, because the gene for the genetic transformation was isolated from soil bacteria. The fact that blaTEM genes were also found in the prairie soil 400 kilometres away confirms the prevalence of these genes.

In addition, the large number of non-cultivable bacteria was also studied using molecular-biological methods. More than 150 different blaTEM genes were identified.

The diversity and composition of the bacterial communities in the different soil samples were also investigated to find out whether the occurrence of similar bla genes implies similar microbial communities. This is apparently not the case. There were significant differences in the composition of the micro-organism communities in the three soils, with the greatest difference occurring between the maize fields and the uncultivated land. Possible changes resulting from the cultivation of Bt maize are therefore less significant than the changes resulting from soil type, plant growth stage, variety or crop differences.

Even if horizontal gene transfer is possible in principle, the authors believe that it is of no significance to microbial communities in the soil. They claim that the cultivation of transgenic plants for more than 10 years in one field has had no measurable effect on the occurrence of antibiotic-resistances and their spectrum. They believe that this is largely due to the fact that the genes are already commonly found in the soil. Horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plant DNA to bacteria is so rare that it could not contribute to a further increase in the widespread antibiotic resistance which already occurs naturally in bacteria.

Genetic engineering of improved nitrogen use efficiency in rice by the tissue-specific expression of alanine aminotransferase
Ashok K. Shrawat, Rebecka T. Carroll, et. al., Plant Biotechnology Journal, June 13, 2008 http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00351.x

One of the critical steps limiting the efficient use of nitrogen is the ability of plants to acquire it from applied fertilizer. Therefore, the development of crop plants that absorb and use nitrogen more efficiently has been a long-term goal of agricultural research.

Nitrogen-efficient plants, rice (Oryza sativa L.) was genetically engineered by introducing a barley AlaAT (alanine aminotransferase) cDNA driven by a rice tissue-specific promoter (OsAnt1).

Interleukin from transgenic tobacco plant

Interleukin 13 (IL13) is a regulatory cytokine (signaling protein) that plays a central role in mediating immune responses. It prevents excessive allergic inflammation in tissues by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory proteins such as tumor necrosis factors. IL13 has the potential to treat numerous human diseases such as type-1 diabetes, chronic arthritis and several types of cancer. It is also needed in providing host protection against gastrointestinal helminths. Recently, scientists showed that IL13 is effective in preventing Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) replication. Despite these promises, treatment of human diseases by IL13 may be limited by the unavailability of functional IL13 at a low cost.

Scientists from Canada developed transgenic tobacco lines expressing biologically active IL13. This is the first report of interleukin 13 production in plants. The team reported IL13 accumulation as high as 0.15 percent of the total soluble proteins in leaves. Simulated gastric and intestinal fluid digestion demonstrated the stability of the GM tobacco-derived cytokine. The paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal is available to subscribers at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00337.x Non-subscribers can read the abstract at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00337.x

Arsenic transporter in plants

Arsenic is a highly toxic and potent carcinogen. It is widespread in the Earth's crust and is usually taken up and accumulated by crops. Argentina, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Mexico and Chile have reported arsenic concentrations higher than the permissible levels and have documented negative effects on human health. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Gothenburg University in Sweden have identified proteins that allow the entry of arsenite, one of the most common forms of arsenic in the environment, into plant cells. The nodulin26-like intrinsic protein (NIPs) family of transporters was found to serve as the "shuttle bus" of arsenite across the cell membrane. NIPs are related to the aquaglyceroporins found in microbes and mammalian cells. The researchers also observed that the NIPs don't just transport arsenite in one direction, but they also play a role in clearing the cells of the toxic compound. The discovery might be important for the development of low-arsenic crops for food production or hyperaccumulating varieties for phytoremediation.
Read the paper published by BMC Biology at http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1121076562174829_article.pdf?random=759933

Study finds healthy intestinal bacteria within chicken eggs.
American Society for Microbiology (press release), June 2, 2008
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/asfm-sfh052908.php

The conventional wisdom among scientists has long been that birds acquire the intestinal bacteria that are a necessary for good health from their environment, but a new University of Georgia study finds that chickens are actually born with those bacteria.

Double haploid corn for Africa

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is using an advance technology called the doubled haploid approach to develop inbred lines of tropical maize for sub-Saharan Africa. Maize lines from this work will be used initially in the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa and the Water Efficient Maize for Africa projects.

Press release at http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2008/may/amnet.htm

Early genetic material is extraterrestrial
Imperial College London (press release), June 13, 2008
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/icl-sct061308.php

Scientists have confirmed for the first time that an important component of early genetic material which has been found in meteorite fragments is extraterrestrial in origin, in a paper published on 15 June 2008.

The scientists, from Europe and the USA, say that their research, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, provides evidence that life's raw materials came from sources beyond the Earth. The materials they have found include the molecules uracil and xanthine, which are precursors to the molecules that make up DNA and RNA, and are known as nucleobases. The team discovered the molecules in rock fragments of the Murchison meteorite, which crashed in Australia in 1969.

Toxicological Assessment of Pollen from Different Bt Rice Lines on Bombyx Mori (Lepidoptera: Bombyxidae)
Hong-Wei1 Yao, Cai-Ying Jiang, et. al., Environmental Entomology, June 2008
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/esa/envent/2008/00000037/00000003/art00026

The relative toxicity of Bt rice pollen to domestic silkworm was assessed by a leaf-dip bioassay under laboratory conditions. Silkworm first instars were sensitive to pollen from Bt rice lines, B1 and KMD1, but were not sensitive to pollen from Bt rice line TT9-3. First instars were 1.34-2.12 times more sensitive to B1 pollen than older instars. Bioassays of subacute toxicity under a worst-case scenario suggested that continuous exposure to a sublethal dose of B1 pollen or equivalent doses of non-Bt rice pollen affected silkworm survival and development. Young larvae were more affected by continuous exposure to Bt pollen than older larvae but less affected by non-Bt pollen. Cry proteins were released into the larval lumen and resulted in pathological midgut changes and negative impacts on silkworm survival and development. However, considering that the sublethal dose of Bt pollen (LC15) used in this study is equivalent to the highest detected density of rice pollen on mulberry leaf under field conditions and that the likelihood of such high density of rice pollen occurring in the fields is extremely low, we suggest that the risk of Bt rice pollen on silkworm rearing is negligible.

Assessing the Risk to Nontarget Organisms from Bt Corn Resistant to Corn Rootworms (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): Tier-I Testing with Orius insidiosus (Heteroptera: Anthocoridae)
Jian Duan, Debra Teixeira, et. al., Environmental Entomology, June 2008
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/esa/envent/2008/00000037/00000003/art00027

Abstract: A 14-d continuous dietary exposure bioassay using nymphs of the insidious flower bug, Orius insidiosus (Say) (Heteroptera: Anthocoridae), was conducted to assess nontarget impacts of genetically modified corn event MON 863 expressing the Cry3Bb1 protein for management of corn rootworms, Diabrotica spp. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Nymphs of O. insidiosus were continuously fed a bee pollen diet inoculated with a maximum hazard exposure dose (930 ?g/g of diet) of the Cry3Bb1 protein for 14 d. The Cry3Bb1 protein at a concentration of 930 ?g/g of diet had no adverse effect on the survival and development (to adults) of O. insidiosus nymphs. In contrast, when O. insidiosus nymphs were fed bee pollen diet treated with a hazard dose of the protease inhibitor E64 (53 ?g/g of diet) or the stomach poison potassium arsenate (8.9 ?g/g of diet), all nymphs died before developing to adults. Furthermore, statistical power analysis indicated that at levels of 80% power and a 5% type I error rate, the study design would have been able to detect a minimum 30% reduction in survival of test nymphs and a 20% reduction in nymphal development to the adults relative to the buffer control groups. Based on the maximum level (93 ?g/g) of the Cry3Bb1 protein expressed in MON 863 corn tissues including leaves, roots, and pollen, findings from this study indicate that corn hybrids containing the MON 863 event have a minimum 10 times safety factor for nymphs of O. insidiosus and thus pose minimal risk to this beneficial insect.

Drought tolerant wheat tested
ABC News (Australia), June 18, 2008
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/18/2278801.htm?section=justin

Australian researchers developing a drought-tolerant wheat have had early success in field trials and hope to have the world's first transgenic wheat in farmers' hands in five to 10 years, a biosciences leader said. The researchers have identified two genetically modified lines that generate yield increases of 20 per cent, said German Spangenberg, executive director of the Victorian AgriBiosciences Centre, part of a state government research division. The test plots were planted in northern Victoria, an area of Australia that suffered significant drought losses in its 2006/07 wheat crop.

Several biotech crop developers, notably Monsanto Co and Syngenta have done extensive work in developing different types of biotech wheat, but Monsanto shelved its herbicide-resistant wheat project and Syngenta has slowed the pace of its work on a disease-resistant wheat because of the widespread opposition. Syngenta has its genetically modified spring wheat nearly ready to submit for regulatory approval, but plans to wait for further market acceptance.

Tobacco genome map

North Carolina State University scientists have completed a nearly five-year, $17.6 million effort to map the genome of tobacco. North Carolina State University (press release), June 19, 2008 http://news.ncsu.edu/news/2008/06/dctobaccogenome.php

First female DNA sequenced

In a world first, geneticists at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) have determined the DNA sequence of a woman. This special achievement is expected to provide considerable insight into human genetic diversity. http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=whatsnew&CurrentMonth=June&CurrentYear=2008

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