News in November 2009
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2009-12-02

General

FAO CONCLUDES WORLD FOOD SUMMIT
The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Jacques Diouf concluded the World Food Summit by affirming that it is possible to free the world from hunger but called for a "move from words to actions." The World Food Summit, held earlier this week in Rome, brought together 60 heads of state and 191 ministers from 182 countries and the European community. Diouf said that the Summit produced four important commitments. These include:
bulleta firm pledge to renew efforts to achieve the First Millennium Development Goals of halving hunger by 2015,
bulleta pledge to improve international coordination and the governance of food security through a profound reform of FAO's Committee on World Food Security (CFS),
bulleta promise to reverse the downward trend in funding for agriculture, food security and rural development in developing countries, and
bulleta decision to promote new investments in agricultural production and productivity in the third world.

Even Diouf himself acknowledged that the Summit "didn't go as far" as he had hoped. "To my regret the official Declaration adopted by the Summit this past Monday contains neither measurable targets nor specific deadlines which would have made it easier to monitor implementation," Diouf said. The UN Agency said that world hunger can be eradicated if rich countries hand over USD 44 billion a year.

Read http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/37465/icode/ for more information. The transcript of Diouf's closing speech is available athttp://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/newsroom/docs/dgfinalspeech.pdf
FAO AND IDB SIGN USD 1 BILLION AGREEMENT
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) announced that they have signed a USD 1 billion agreement to finance agriculture development projects in 26 least-developed IDB member countries. The agreement, inked earlier this week by Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of IDB, and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, is expected to help leverage additional resources and bring total investment in the IDB-FAO program to USD 5 billion by 2012.

FAO said in a press release that the deal "comes at a critical moment, when the international community recognizes it has neglected agriculture for many years." The UN agency also said that the two institutions share the same vision and strategy and will continue working together in improving rural infrastructure, promoting local economic development and enhancing food security while strengthening and revitalizing their cooperation.

For more information, read http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/37341/icode/
Omega-3 Soybean Oil Closer to Commercial Reality for Monsanto and Solae
Gary Drimmer,  Nov. 1, 2009 : www.seedquest.com;
Full report at http://www.glgroup.com/News/Omega-3-Soybean-Oil-Closer-To-Commercial-Reality-For-Monsanto-and-Solae-44523.html.

Monsanto and Solae LLC have just received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) from the FDA. Solae is majority owned by DuPont with a minority shareholding by Bunge Ltd. Bunge also has a joint venture with Pioneer Seed which is owned by DuPont to market new genetically modified soybean oil traits, which this year has the first commercial low-lin GMO soybean oil in the market which does not require the process that produces trans fats in soybean oil.

At last, the GM industry has produced what it promised at the outset: a product designed to have real benefits for consumers. It's an oil from soybean modified to produce omega-3 fatty acids essential for health and proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Demand for omega-3 fatty acids is rising, and at present, the principal way to obtain them is from fish.

Can Friends of the Earth and its allies justify campaigning against a product that could save lives and help reduce over fishing? Can environmental groups justify campaigning against a product that could save thousands of lives?

First-generation GM crops may even have brought unexpected benefits. A recent report from UK consultancy PG Economics charting the global impact of GM crops from 1996 to 2007 found that over that period, pesticide spraying dropped by 8.8 per cent. And because fields don't have to be tilled before planting GM crops, energy savings in 2007 alone amounted to the equivalent of removing 6.3 million cars from the road. These findings are disputed by environmental groups and need to be independently confirmed, but if they hold up it will be time for the technology's critics to reconsider.

The big question now will be price and finding food companies willing to add more nutritional benefits to their products. Nestle and Unilever are two companies that have been looking to differentiate themselves through food with more health benefits. While all the letters can get confusing, it would be great to have a way to get the EDA and DHA we need without having to take a large fish oil pill each day!
POST-HARVEST LOSSES STILL A PROBLEM
Post-harvest losses remain to be a problem in developing countries but with adequate investment and training, these could be significantly reduced. According to a press release by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food losses contribute to high food prices, environmental degradation and climate change.

FAO says that it is collaborating with the World bank and donor partners to train people in three continents on the proper handling of food products. Through revolving funds and loans, FAO is also able to facilitate the diffusion of better storage containers, and establish innovative institutional mechanisms.

Read FAO's press release at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/36844/icode/

Books & Articles

How About the Term "Transgenosis"?
- Boris Levenko, Ukraine borislevenko@yahoo.com

I would like to express my point of view concerning the use of term 'transgenesis' in a modern scientific literature. Even a book "Tree transgenesis" is published. Genesis means development : morphogenesis, ontogenesis etc. But here we are dealing with transfer of genes, not with the development of trans. It seems to me that it's time to start to use the term transgenosis, which was used in the early publications describing the transfer of genes.

- Yours,

Prof., Dr.Sci. Boris A.Levenko, Head of Genetics and Biotechnology Lab, Natl. Botanical Gardens of NAS of Ukraine 01014 Kiev, Ukraine
Bt toxin in soil:
Miethling-Graff, R., Dockhorn, S., & Tebbe, C.C. (2009) Release of the recombinant Cry3Bb1 protein of Bt maize MON88017 into field soil and detection of effects on the diversity of rhizosphere bacteria. European Journal of Soil Biology, In Press, Corrected Proof,  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VR7-4XNGH9H-1/2/ab3456b83a748a777b41ba874ff80679 and http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Bt/Miethling-Graff-Release-Cry3Bb1-MON88017-Soil-2009.pdf
Extrapolating Non-Target Risk of Bt Crops From Laboratory to Field
Jian J. Duan et al., Biology Letters.
http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/09/08/rsbl.2009.0612.full?sid=fd7d9161-e464-4593-8580-30048a816f47

The tiered approach to assessing ecological risk of insect-resistant transgenic crops assumes that lower tier laboratory studies, which expose surrogate non-target organisms to high doses of insecticidal proteins, can detect harmful effects that might be manifested in the field. To test this assumption, we performed meta-analyses comparing results for non-target invertebrates exposed to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry proteins in laboratory studies with results derived from independent field studies examining effects on the abundance of non-target invertebrates.

Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: US Organic Center Report Evaluation
PG Economics, November 19, 2009 http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/

PG Economics welcomes the Organic Center (OC) latest release Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use: the first thirteen years by Charles Benbrook, which confirms the positive impact biotech crops have had on reducing insecticide use and associated environmental impacts. However, the OC's assessment of the impact of biotech herbicide tolerant traits (HT) is disappointingly inaccurate, misleading and fails to acknowledge several of the benefits US farmers and citizens have derived from use of the technology.For those reviewing the issues examined in the OC report, the following should be noted:

Confirmation: of biotech insect resistant (IR) impact on insecticide use: the OC paper confirms the findings of other work that the use of IR technology has resulted in important reductions in insecticide use on these crops that would otherwise have been used with conventional technology;

Failure to acknowledge the environmental benefits arising from use of HT technology. These include facilitation of no/reduced tillage production systems2 which has resulted in important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, US HT biotech crops contributed, in 2007, to the equivalent of removing 9.48 billion pounds (4.3 billion kg) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 1.9 million cars from the road for one year. In addition, whilst usage of broad spectrum herbicides, notably glyphosate (and to a lesser extent glufosinate) has increased significantly, usage of less environmentally benign products such as pendimethalin, metribuzin, fluazifop and metalochlor has fallen substantially, leading to net benefits to the environment 3;

Inaccuracies: It uses assumptions relating to herbicide use on biotech crops in the US that do not concur with actual practice. As a result, it overstates herbicide use on US biotech crops significantly. For example, it overstates herbicide use on the HT crops of corn, cotton and soybeans for the period between 1998 and 2008 by 63.4 million pounds (28.75 million kg) of active ingredient;

Misleading use of official data: The OC report states many times that the pesticide impact data is based on official, government (USDA NASS) pesticide usage data. Whilst this dataset is used, its limitations (namely not covering pesticide use on some of the most recent years and not providing disaggregated breakdowns of use between conventional and biotech crops) mean that the author's analysis relied on own-estimates of usage and cannot reasonably claim to be based on official sources. As a result, the herbicide usage assumptions on conventional crops, if they replaced biotech HT traited crops, are significantly understated and unreliable.

Combined with the overstated use assumptions on HT biotech crops, it is therefore not surprising that the document concluded that biotech crops lead to an increase in US herbicide use. This contrasts sharply with the findings of PG Economics' peer reviewed analysis4 that estimated that biotech crop adoption in the US has reduced pesticide spraying in the US, eg, by 357 million lbs (162 million kg: -7.1% 1996-2007) relative to what might reasonably be expected if the crops were all planted to conventional varieties;

Weak approach: the approach of the OC report author is based on personal assumptions of herbicide use for biotech versus conventional crops and extrapolation of average trends in total crop active ingredient use (from an incomplete dataset). It also does not present any information about typical weed control regimes that might be expected in conventional systems. Not surprisingly, this resulted in significant over estimation of herbicide use on biotech HT crops (see above) and under estimation of usage on conventional alternatives. As such, the approach delivers unreliable and unrepresentative outcomes. It is noted that the OC author is critical of the approach used by other analysts5 to estimate the herbicide usage regimes that might reasonably be expected on conventional crops if biotech HT traits were not used in the US corn, cotton and soybean crops over the last thirteen years. The NCFAP/PG Economics approach, criticized by the OC report, is to present and estimate the conventional alternatives based on a survey of opinion from over 50 extension advisors in almost all states growing these three crops. Observers should note the key differences between the two approaches with the NCFAP & PG Economics approach being much more reliable and representative.

Detailed report at  http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/
Projected Impacts of Agricultural Biotechnologies for Fruits and Vegetables in the Philippines and Indonesia
The book presents the projected level and distribution of costs and benefits associated with the featured biotech crops based from a series of ex-ante impact assessment studies supported by the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The book is co-published by ISAAA and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). Download PDF (1.51MB)]
Biotech Crops Making Important Contributions to Food Production & Sustainable Farming
Graham Brookes, PG Economics, Nov 17, 2009 http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk

In the light of ongoing world food security, agricultural sustainability and climate change debates, PG Economics has released three summary documents of the yield, income and environmental effects of biotech crops .  These summaries are supplemented by more detailed examinations of these impacts in the latest report on the global socio-economic and environmental impacts of the technology 1996-2007.

The three summaries document the real contribution of biotech crops to; improving global crop yields, increasing production (and estimated contributions to food security), improving farm income and reducing the environment 'footprint' of agriculture.

Key impacts are:

bulletBiotech crops have contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. In 2007, this was equivalent to removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for one year;
bulletA reduction in pesticide spraying (1996-2007) of 359 million kg (equivalent to 125% of the annual volume of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the European Union);
bulletThere have been substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for the twelve year period.   The farm income gains in 2007 is equivalent to adding 4.4% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;
bulletOf the total farm income benefit, 46.5% ($20.5 billion) has been due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production;
bulletFarmers in developing countries obtained the largest share of the farm income gains in 2007 (58%) and over the twelve year period obtained 50% of the total ($44.1 billion) gains.  Developing country farmers have also seen the largest increases in farm income on a per hectare basis from using the technology;
bulletSince 1996, biotech traits have added 67.8 million tonnes and 62.4 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn.  The technology has also contributed an extra 6.85 million tonnes of cotton lint and 4.44 million tonnes of canola;
bulletThe average yield gains across the global area planted to biotech insect resistant corn and cotton (1996-2007) were over 6% and 13% respectively.  The highest yield gains have been experienced by developing country farmers;
bulletThe additional production arising from biotech crops (1996-2007) has contributed enough energy (in kcal terms) to feed about 402 million people for a year (additional production in 2007 contributed enough energy to feed 88 million, similar to the annual requirement of the population of the Philippines);
bulletIf GM technology had not been available to the (12 million) farmers using the technology in 2007,  maintaining global production levels at the 2007 levels would have required additional plantings of 5.9 million ha of soybeans, 3 million ha of corn, 2.5 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola.  This total area requirement is equivalent to about 6% of the arable land in the US, or 23% of the arable land in Brazil.
Genetic Glass Ceilings - Transgenics for Crop Biodiversity
"by Jonathan Gressel; The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 461pp. 2008
Ian Crute, BW, Food Sec. (2009) 1:479-480; Published online: 22 November 2009 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. & International Society for Plant Pathology 2009; DOI 10.1007/s12571-009-0043-x
http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title_pages/9174.html Professor Jonathan Gressel has written a thought-provoking book that contains something for everyone with an interest in the application of modern genetics to crop-based agriculture. I hope it will be read by both enthusiasts and sceptics about the application of genetic engineering to crop genetic improvement. I also hope that it will be read by those who see agriculture as a threat to the integrity of ecosystems as well as those who promote biotechnology as an essential element of future global food security. In writing this book, Professor Gressel draws on his own very considerable experience as a plant and agricultural scientist who has always maintained a proximity to the latest developments in understanding plant form and function while promoting practical crop biotechnology as a route to resolving agricultural problems and effective weed control in particular.
Consumers Choose Locally Grown and Environmentally Friendly Apples
ScienceDaily, Nov. 23, 2009 http://www.sciencedaily.com/

When asked to compare apples to apples, consumers said they would pay more for locally grown apples than genetically modified (GMO) apples. But in a second questionnaire consumers preferred GMO apples -- that is, when they were described, not as GMO, but as having a Reduced Environmental Impact. The research conducted by University of Illinois economist Michael Mazzocco and Augustana College marketing professor Nadia Novotorova demonstrated that product labeling makes a difference when it comes to consumer acceptance.

"One thing we learned was that if you're going to get any benefit from technology, you're going to have to communicate the benefits of it," Mazzocco said. "People aren't willing to pay you for the technology just so they can have another attribute. There's an equal trade-off. But, when you don't call it GMO and instead you communicate the benefit to the environment, it's more than a one-to-one trade-off and consumers are willing to pay more for it."

Both surveys began by giving the participants the identical short lesson in apple growing which included information about apple diseases and pests and how disease-resistant apples are developed. One apple is made through laboratory techniques where a naturally occurring scab-resistant gene from an apple was inserted into another variety of apple that's your favorite -- the one you would normally buy. This apple that has the gene inserted in a laboratory can reduce apple spraying 15 to 20 times per season in an orchard in the Midwest for an apple grower that's susceptible to apple scab.

Events

CAN PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS FEED THE POOR?
Crawford Fund's World Food Security conference

Speakers said that global food security will only be achieved through public- private partnerships. The Conference, held in Canberra Australia last week, sought to explore ways in which the private sector can engage in international agricultural research, development and extension to the benefit of the rural poor. It also tackled the longstanding problem of the persistent failure of the private sector to develop and introduce agricultural products, technologies and services so badly needed in the poorest developing countries. Representatives from multinational companies and agricultural experts attended the conference.

Agriculture needs to be more productive if it is to feed a much larger world population. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), farmers need to double food production by 2050. But with crop yields declining the past years because of climate change among other things, how will we do it?

Read the press release at http://www.pioneer.com/web/site/portal/menuitem.2fc7542313d78369e6a4e6a4d10093a0/

For more information, visit http://www.crawfordfund.org/events/conference09.htm
Food, sustainability and plant science - a global challenge
6-7 November 2009, EMBL, Operon Auditorium, Meyerhofstr. 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

GMO Technology OK in Asia but Called ‘Dead’ in Germany: Although Golden Rice, engineered for enhanced provitamin A content, is steadily inching its way through the regulatory process in several Asian countries, co-inventor Peter Beyer, of the University of Freiburg, in Germany, is pessimistic about the future prospects of the underlying technology in his home country.

“I think what we are missing is new-generation breeders, ready to use new-generation breeding technologies,” said Catherine Feuillet, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Clermont-Ferrand, who is a leader on the wheat genome project.

“I could foresee that within the next 20 years a lot of the breeding challenges will be carried out and fulfilled in the east,” said Dani Zamir, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel. In China, where the first transgenic rice varieties will shortly become available, “the art of plant breeding is highly appreciated,” he said.

“My impression is we have Germanized Europe, and I apologize for that,” said EMBO Director Hermann Bujard, referring to his country’s role in exercising caution toward biotechnology.
EuropaBio Workshop
October 15 Presentations of EuropaBio's workshop Environmental Risk Assessment for the cultivation of genetically modified crops

Selected presentations can be downloaded:

Assessing the risk of insect-resistant GM crops to non-target arthropods
Speaker: Franz Bigler, Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station
ART http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/06F.Bigler_RA_GM_crops.pdf

EFSA self-tasking working group: Update on the guidance for the
assessment of potential impacts of GM plants on non-target organisms
Speaker: Jozsef Kiss, EFSA GMO Panel
http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/07J.Kiss_Update_guidance.pdf

Data generation for the ERA - How do we assess unintended effects? The
comparative assessment. Speaker: Monica Garcia-Alonso, Syngenta
http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/08Garcia-Alonso_effects.pdf

EFSA approach to assessing risks from the cultivation and management of GMOs,
herbicide tolerance as a case study. Speaker: Jeremy Sweet, EFSA GMO Panel
http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/12J.Sweet_Impacts_MPs.pdf

Applications for registration of chemicals (herbicides): The
applicant’s view. Speaker: Euros Jones, ECPA
http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/13Jones_Registration_PPPs.pdf
AgriGenomics World Congress
08 - 09 July 2010, Brussels, Belgium
3rd Annual Recombinant Antibodies
28th - 29th January 2010, BSG Conference Centre, London, UK; Examining strategies for increased safety and improved delivery
CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL, INDUSTRIAL, AND APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY
2nd to 4th December 2009 in Lisbon, Portugal.

For further information, please visit: http://www.formatex.org/biomicroworld2009/

Europe - EU

Annual Report 2009 - on the activities of 2008
The Annual Report (2009) on research and technological development activities of the European Union in 2008 is now available online. The report is accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document, which provides more detailed reporting and by Statistical Annexes. The main chapters are on the activities and results achieved in 2008 and on developments in research and technological development activities in the Member States of the European Union. http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=reports
Public consultation on the future EU 2020 strategy
In his political guidelines for the new Commission, President Barroso set out his vision for where the European Union should be heading for in 2020. He believes that the exit from the current crisis should be the point of entry into a new sustainable social market economy, a smarter, greener economy where our prosperity will result from innovation and from using resources better, and where knowledge will be the key input. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/eu-in-2020-strategy-research_en.html
'Science in Society'
The European Commission has just selected 15 excellent projects (see annex) in the area of 'Science in Society' which aim at facilitating and improving the relationship between the scientific community, citizens and policy makers. The projects which cover topics such as gender, ethics, classroom innovation and science governance, involve 180 participants from 15 consortia. The project partners come from all twenty-seven Member States, five countries associated to the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union and a significant number of partners coming from outside Europe.

http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&lg=en&year=2009&na=na-181109

For more information about the SIS programme go to: http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/ and http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/sis/home_en.html
The European Union has allowed politics rather than science
By Nigel Hunt

LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The European Union has allowed politics rather than science to dominate decision making on genetically modified crops, the chief executive of Syngenta AG said on Tuesday.

"The EU is moving further and further away from the principles of science-based decision making," Mike Mack told a conference on food security. GMO crops have struggled to gain approval in the EU with biotech-sceptic states often managing to prevent a majority consensus under the EU's complex weighted voting system, creating a deadlock. Opponents have cited both public health and environmental concerns.

Britain's chief scientific advisor John Beddington also expressed frustration at the EU approval process. "It is perfect reasonably of ask about health and safety of humans and health and safety of the environment with GM crops but subject to appropriate testing and scientific investigation it seems to be a tool that is absolutely essential to be thinking about using," he told Reuters. "There are quite clearly political views that are fundamentally against GM irrespective of the scientific advice and that is really unfortunate," he said on the sidelines of a Chatham House food security conference.

Syngenta's Mack said EU opposition "sends completely the wrong signal to the world at large." "It is one of the factors keeping technology out of the hands of Africa. I think we need every tool in the toolbox," he said EU rules have blocked imports from countries which use GMO seeds.

This summer, over 200,000 tonnes of soybean and soymeal were refused entry to EU ports, largely in Spain, because they contained small amounts of GMO corn (maize) varieties not approved in Europe."What is required is science-based regulation that does not take a back seat to politics at every turn," Mack said.

Food security has moved up the political agenda with demand expected to rise by 50 percent by 2030 driven by a rising global population and increasing consumption of meat. Beddington said growing demand would have to be met while at the same time that agriculture must both mitigate its impact on and adapt to climate change. (Editing by William Hardy)
EU APPROVES THREE GM MAIZE STRAINS
The EU Commission has approved three genetically modified maize strains for food, feed and processing across its 27 member states. Monsanto's insect resistant YieldGard VT Pro (MON 89034) and insect resistant and herbicide tolerant YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 (MON 88017), as well as DuPont's stacked Herculex RW/ Roundup Ready Corn 2 can now be imported into the European Union. Similar to earlier authorizations, the Commission issued the approval after the Council of Ministers failed to reach a consensus.

The approval follows the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) scientific opinions concluding that the GM maize strains "are unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health or on the environment."

For more information, read http://www2.dupont.com/Media_Center/en_US/daily_news/november/article20091103.html and http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=763
From the Farm to the Fork
genetically modified food and feed see http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm

Evaluation of the EU legislative framework on GM food and feed. Document of 17 pgs. Download: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/evaluation/docs/eval_EU_leg.pdf

EFSA ON BAYER'S LLRICE62 SAFETY
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), EU's top food watch dog, issued a statement in 2007 on Bayer's application for the market authorization of its genetically modified herbicide-resistant LLRice62 for food/feed uses, import and processing in the European Union. EFSA in the statement concluded that although "there is a possibility that small numbers of GM rice plants could enter cultivation and cross-pollinate with cultivated or weedy rice," it is unlikely that "spillage will result in feral plants establishing around ports, mills, and transit routes." EFSA maintained that there is no indication of changes in fitness or behavior of the GM rice, except in the presence of the herbicide glufosinate.

Recently the European Commission asked EFSA to review a paper by Lu & Yang published in the journal Biotechnology Advance to indicate whether this paper contains new information that would alter the previous EFSA environmental safety conclusions on LLRice62. The paper reviews the processes of vertical gene flow between cultivated GM rice and its cross-compatible wild/weedy relatives, as well as its potential ecological consequences.

Having considered relevant scientific publications, EFSA stood by its original conclusions. The agency noted that "in terms of risk to the environment, no new scientific evidence has been provided that invalidates the previous environmental risk assessment evaluation of LLRice62 for its intended uses, which exclude cultivation."

Download a copy of EFSA's Scientific Opinion at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/cs/BlobServer/Statement/1365.pdf?ssbinary=true Lu and Yang's review paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biotechadv.2009.05.018

Europe

AGREENIUM LAUNCHED IN EUROPE
AGREENIUM, a National Consortium for agriculture, food, animal health and the environment have been launched to strengthen initiatives geared towards the global challenges imposed by new requirements in these four fields.

The consortium is composed of INRA, CIRAD, AgroParis Tech, Agrocampus Ouest, Montpellier SupAGro and ENV Toulouse and created by the Ministries for Agriculture, Higher Education and Research, and Foreign Affairs. Activities will be geared towards the improvement of the French research and training structures in their fields, increase France's visibility, appeal and international relevance, and help create and mobilize new scientific capabilities in these areas.

For further details, see the press release at: http://www.international.inra.fr/press/agreenium
Ireland: Government's Stance on GM crops is Wrong-headed
Shane H Morris, Sunday Tribune (Ireland), Nov 22, 2009 http://www.tribune.ie

The government has turned its back on the scientific search for knowledge by ruling out research trials on GM crops. This Luddite stance effectively throws the baby out with the bath water by refusing to even research the issue. This commitment goes against EU law, contradicts advice from the Irish chief science advisor, short changes Irish farmers and is a sad attempt to mislead the Irish public. The ludicrous nature of this proposal is reflected in several facts. Firstly, EU regulations govern research trials of GM crops so it is not currently legally possible for the Irish government to ban such research. This was highlighted by Fianna Fail's Noel Dempsey when, as environment minister, he accepted as government policy an independent public consultation report which ruled out a ban on crop trials in Ireland stating that it would not be legally possible to ban them. The report also warned that, if Ireland rejects or ignores GM biotechnology, it will not remain attractive to investors in high-tech industries or competitive in food production.

Coalition Agreement: Plant Biotechnology to Receive More Support
Gabriele Völcker, GMO Safety, Genius GmbH, Darmstadt, Aachen
http://www.gmo-safety.eu

The coalition agreement presented by the new German government on Saturday advocates responsible use of plant biotechnology in Germany. Key aspects of the agreement between the CDU, CSU and FDP are an endorsement of the cultivation of genetically modified Amflora starch potatoes, flexible, regionally determined minimum distances between fields with genetically modified crops and fields with conventional crops, and positive 'GM-free' labelling at European level. As far as the German cultivation ban on MON810 maize is concerned, the coalition intends to await the outcome of the ongoing court case.

Annette Schavan (CDU) is still Research Minister. In terms of research policy, the future government coalition intends to "develop further the accountable innovation potential of biotechnology and gene technology". The coalition sees "big opportunities for Germany as a research and industry location" in the fields of biotechnology and gene technology.

On the one hand, the agreement emphasises the fact that the coalition would like to achieve a stronger scientific orientation and more efficient EU approval procedures for GMOs in future. However, its intentions regarding the existing cultivation ban on MON810 maize remain unclear. Although leading scientific organisations and the Commission for Biological Safety in Germany consider the ban to be unjustified from a scientific point of view, all that the coalition partners managed to agree on initially in this case was to await the outcome of the ongoing court proceedings.

The agreement does not state a position on the issue of field trials with GM plants. A large number of biosafety research projects are conducted in the field in order to assess potential effects of GM plants under realistic conditions. However, in September, the Bavarian environment minister, Markus Söder (CSU), spoke out against field trials with genetically modified plants, claiming that the risks to the environment and population were simply too great.

The coalition partners want to change the Genetic Engineering Act to allow the federal states to set their own minimum separation distances between fields with genetically modified plants and fields with organic or conventional crops. The idea is to draw up a nationwide framework, although this is not defined in any more detail, so it is not yet clear whether such minimum distances will have to be based on scientific criteria in future.

The reaction of groups and associations to the agreements has been mixed. Germany's organic food industry association (BÖLW) has severely criticised the agreements on plant biotechnology contained in the coalition agreement, saying it was "unbelievable" that a specific product produced by one company was mentioned in the agreement (the genetically modified Amflora potato). Greenpeace sees the agreement as evidence that the interests of corporations "clearly come before protection of the environment and people".

By contrast, the German Raiffeisen Association, an umbrella organisation that represents the interests of cooperatives in the German food and agriculture sector, welcomed the fact that the agreements promote the potential of plant biotechnology as an industry of the future. It claimed that this would make an important contribution to freedom of choice. What was needed now was to implement a legal framework in Germany and Europe that would prevent distortion of competition and would, in particular, make it feasible to work with European Community Law's zero tolerance for GMOs not authorised in the EU.
Genetically Modified Food for Thought
The Editorial, The Independent (London), Nov. 19, 2009

The Prospect of a hungry century looms. On our present course, we are caught in a pincer. Climate change is likely to turn much farmland around the globe into desert. And the growth of the global population will increase demand for food. Yields will fall and prices will rise. That is a recipe for starvation.

Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, argues in an interview with this newspaper today that the policy response of all governments, including our own, to this "nightmare scenario" should be greater support for genetically-modified crop technologies.

The potential benefits to mankind from GM are real. If crops can be genetically modified to be drought-resistant, or to grow on formerly barren land, they could well play an important role in feeding the planet in the coming decades.
NEW TURKISH REGULATION BLOCKS IMPORT OF GM FOOD AND FEED
The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a biotech regulation last week that bans all imports of food and feed that might contain genetically-engineered material, pending approval by an as-yet non-existent committee. The new regulation goes into effect immediately and would also require all biotech products to be labelled. This regulation came without warning, said the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS). The FAS also noted that the approval system "does not appear to be based on standard international risk assessment procedures."

The total value of U.S. transgenic crop exports to Turkey, including cotton, corn soy and their derivatives, exceeded USD 1 billion in 2007, said FAS.

The USDA FAS GAIN report, which include an unofficial translation of the regulation, is available at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/New%20Turkish%20Regulation%20Bans%20Imports%20of%20Biotech%20Food%20and%20Feed_Ankara_Turkey_10-28-2009.pdf

The official text of the regulation is available (in Turkish only) at http://rega.basbakanlik.gov.tr/

Africa

MAIZE RESEARCH IMPROVES FARMERS PRODUCTIVITY IN AFRICA
A multi-country study on variety performance and adoption patterns to measure the impacts of maize research in West and Central Africa from 1981 to 2005 reveals that farming communities benefited significantly. Arega Alene from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and colleagues reported in Agricultural Economics that more than one million people per year escaped poverty through the adoption of new maize varieties mainly through productivity gains.

The study on The Economic and Poverty Impacts of Maize Research in West and Central Africa also noted that adoption of modern varieties increased from less than 5% of the maize area in the 1970s to about 60% in 2005. This yielded an aggregate rate of return on research and development (R&D) investment of 43%. A copy of the abstract is available at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122561950/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0. Email the lead author at A.Alene@cgiar.org.

America

CONTROLLING THE DEVELOPMENT OF GLYPHOSATE-RESISTANT WEEDS DEVELOPMENT
The wide use of glyphosate resistant biotech crops over the last 13 years caused some alarm to scientists who have observed the growing number of weeds developing resistance to glyphosate. "Unfortunately it is too late to prevent glyphosate resistance from developing," says David Shaw, Weed Science Society of America president. "It's a problem that is already with us. The challenge now is to adopt effective management techniques that can keep resistance from spreading." For details on the story, visit: http://www.wssa.net/WSSA/PressRoom/WSSA_GlyphosateResistance.htm
BRAZIL APPROVES TWO NEW GM CORN TRAITS
Brazil's National Biosafety Committee has approved Syngenta's genetically modified corn MIR162 and Bt11xGA21 for commercial cultivation in the country, Syngenta said in a press release. MIR162 expresses the Vip3Aa20 insecticidal protein for protection against lepidopteran pests such as the corn ear worm, black cut worm and fall army worm, which according to Syngenta is the main insect threat to corn in Brazil. Bt11xGA21, on the other hand, expresses both the EPSPS and PAT enzymes for tolerance to glyphosate and glufosinate herbicides and the cry1Ab protein for insect resistance.

For more information, read http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/mediareleases/en_091113.htmll

Asia

BIOMALAYSIA 2009 TAKES OFF
BioMalaysia 2009 was officiated by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on the 17th November at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. The Prime Minister (PM) was happy to note that biotechnology industry has contributed 2.2% of the Gross Domestic Product and this is not far from the target set, that is 2.5% at the end of next year. The Biotechnology Policy which was launched in 2005 is nearing the end of the first phase, i.e. capacity building and the second phase on commercialization will begin in 2011. At the launch of BioMalaysia, the PM also announced the establishment of the National Innovation Centre which will be placed under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). BioMalaysia 2009 was the biggest BioMalaysia so far with a 20% increase in participation. There were around 200 local and foreign booths at the exhibition with about 8,000 participants from around the globe. Email Mahaletchumy Arujanan at maha@bic.org.my for more news about biotechnology in Malaysia.
BANGLADESH OFFICIALS BACK BIOTECH TO ADDRESS FOOD CRISIS
Bangladesh Cabinet Secretary Abdul Aziz voiced out the urgent need to consider biotechnology ventures to alleviate the present food crisis. The Cabinet Secretary was the chief guest during the three-day training workshop on the finalization of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Food Safety Legal Documents under the Food and Agriculture Organization- administered project Assistance in the formulation of enabling regulatory measures for research and sustainable application of biotechnology at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) in Dhaka. The meeting was attended by around 120 senior officials from various stakeholder organizations.

Contact Dr. K.M. Nasiruddin, national coordinator of the Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Center at k.nasiruddin@isaaa.org for additional information about the workshop.

China

Genetically Modified Crops Clear Hurdle in China
Andrew Batson and James T. Areddy, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 30, 2009 http://online.wsj.com

China's government declared two strains of genetically modified rice safe to produce and consume, taking a major step toward endorsing the use of biotechnology in the staple food crop of billions of people in Asia. In a written reply to questions from The Wall Street Journal, China's Ministry of Agriculture said Monday that it had issued safety certificates to domestically developed strains of genetically modified rice and corn, after a years-long process involving trial production and environmental tests. Further approvals are required before the strains can be grown on a commercial scale, the ministry said, and industry participants said it may take another two to three years for the rice to reach production.

"This is an important achievement in independent intellectual property from our country's research into genetic modification technology, and creates a good basis for commercial production," the Ministry of Agriculture said.
NEW CENTER TO BRING CORNELL'S AGRICULTURAL INNOVATIONS TO CHINA
A new Agricultural Technology Innovation Center that may help make agricultural advances such as transgenic drought- and salt-tolerant rice available in China has been established at Cornell University in the U.S. The center's creation was facilitated by a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Cornell University and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Science and Education.

An initial project may include sending animal vaccines to China. The vaccines, developed at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, have already worked well in the United States and Europe. Cornell may also help Chinese researchers engineer drought- or salt-tolerant rice that were developed by Wu.

The press release is available at http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Oct09/CornellChinaMOU.html
MONSANTO OPENS BIOTECH RESEARCH FACILITY IN CHINA
Monsanto Company has recently launched its first biotechnology research center in China. Monsanto Biotechnology Research Center in Zhongguancun, Beijing will participate in early-stage bioinformatics and genomics research and serve as a base for collaborations with Chinese scientists, the company said in a press release. Monsanto also has research centers in India, Brazil and the US.

The press release is available at http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=765

China Has Approved GM Phytase Maize For Commercial Cultivation
Business Wire (press release) via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, November 21, 2009

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 received the Bio-safety Certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture as a final approval for commercial approval of the world's first genetically modified phytase corn. Origin's phytase corn is the first transgenic corn to officially introduce the next generation of corn product approved and sold commercially into the domestic marketplace.

MEDIA WORKSHOP ON GMO IN BEIJING
The Crop Biotechnology media workshop organized by China Biotechnology Information Center of ISAAA (CHINABIC) was held on November 14, 2009 at the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing. China's top experts from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and China Agricultural University participated in the workshop. Prof. Huang Dafang, director of CHINA BIC, vice president of Chinese Society of Biotechnology (CSBT) and former director of Biotechnology Research Institute of CAAS, and Prof. Luo Yunbo, dean of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering College of China Agricultural University, gave their insights on biotechnology and biosafety. For more information, contact Prof. Zhang Hongxiang at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn or Dr. Yue Tongqing at yuetq@mail.las.ac.cn

India

INDIA CANNOT OPPOSE GM, AGRIC MINISTER SAYS
India's Minister of State for Agriculture K V Thomas said that the country cannot oppose the use of biotechnology as it wants to increase crop yields. An article by the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Thomas as saying "the country needs to take scientific and practical steps to improve productivity and bring down cost of production. The GM technology is one way to achieve this." The original article is available at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blnus/07131806.htm
Bt Brinjal: A Lost Cause?
Harish Damodaran, The Hindu Business Line (India), Oct 30, 2009

In March 2002, when Bt cotton was approved for commercial cultivation, there was scant opposition to the Government's decision. The few murmurs of protest from assorted NGOs and self-proclaimed farmers' bodies were drowned by the actions of the riots themselves. Their clamouring for the transgenic cotton seeds was indeed reminiscent of the early Green Revolution days, when the country's premier agricultural universities reported frequent thefts and raids by farmers jostling for the new 'magic' wheat varieties.

Since its introduction in 2002, the area under Bt cotton in India has expanded from a mere 50,000 hectares to some 8.3 million hectares (mh), out of the total 9.6 mh sown to the crop this year. That represents a rate of technology diffusion surpassed perhaps only by the mobile phone - and, as was the case with the latter, something adopted voluntarily and not shoved down anyone's throat.

Success story

Against this background of success, what is all the recent fuss over Bt brinjal about? For one, both these genetically modified (GM) crops basically incorporate the same foreign cry1Ac gene sourced from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt. So why this caution in granting clearance to Bt brinjal? To put it differently: How have the various environment and so-called farmers' organisations - with capacity to mobilise a few hundred people at most - managed to strike a chord vis-a-vis Bt brinjal, which they couldn't for Bt cotton? As far as Bt brinjal is concerned, the benefits from it to the farmer are obvious. Brinjal is a 150-180 day crop that starts giving fruit after 60 days, yielding roughly 15 pickings over its lifetime. To control FSB, farmers typically spray pesticides twice before each picking, adding up to 30-odd sprays.

What's more, the pesticides are effective only against the larvae that are not inside the shoots or fruits of the plant. Once they bore into the shoots or fruits, the larvae plug the entrance holes with excreta and escape any insecticide sprays. Bt brinjal, by contrast, offers 'in-built' protection against FSB, significantly reducing the number of sprays along with increasing overall marketable yields.

For all the scientific arguments favouring it, however, the prevailing political environment does not look congenial for Bt brinjal's release. In Bt cotton, the impetus for commercialisation ultimately came from the farmers, whereas brinjal has no such organised growers' lobby.

Brinjal is cultivated in less than 0.6 mh, compared with cotton's nearly 10 mh. Also, unlike say rubber in Kerala, the 9.6-million-tonne annual brinjal production is spread thin across many States. These dispersed farmers would probably be no match for the likes of Greenpeace and Vandana Shiva, who are better placed to influence both middle-class opinion and government policy in this particular instance.

Australia

Australia: Release of GM Sugarcane for Herbicide Tolerance
http://www.seedquest.com
November 11, 2009

The Gene Technology Regulator has made a decision to issue a licence in respect of application DIR 096 from BSES Limited (BSES). The applicant has received approval for the limited and controlled release of up to 6,000 sugarcane lines genetically modified for herbicide tolerance. The release is expected to take place at six BSES stations in the Queensland shires of Moreton Bay, Bundaberg, Mackay, Burdekin and Cairns on a maximum total area of 26 ha between November 2009 and November 2015. None of the GM sugarcane plants will be permitted to be used as human food or animal feed.

The decision to issue the licence was made after extensive consultation on the Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) with the public, State and Territory governments, Australian Government agencies, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee and relevant local councils, as required by the Gene Technology Act 2000 and corresponding State and Territory laws.

News in Science

SCIENTISTS MAP MAIZE GENOME
A team of researchers from the US announced that they have sequenced the genome of maize, The $29.5 million maize sequencing project began in 2005 and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy. The genome was sequenced at Washington University's Genome Center. The overall effort involved more than 150 U.S. scientists with those at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and Iowa State University in Ames playing key roles. The team, composed of more than 150 scientists, reported their findings in this week's issue of Science. They specifically sequenced the genome of an inbred line of maize called B73.

The genetic code of corn consists of 2 billion bases of DNA, making it similar in size to the human genome, which is 2.9 billion letters long. About 85 percent of the DNA segments are repeated. Jumping genes, or transposons, that move from place to place make up a significant portion of the genome, further complicating sequencing efforts.

A working draft of the maize genome, unveiled by the same group of scientists in 2008, indicated the plant had 50,000-plus genes. But when they placed the many thousands of DNA segments onto chromosomes in the correct order and closed the remaining gaps, the researchers revised the number of genes to 32,000.
The maize genome is composed of two separate genomes melded into one, with four copies of many genes. As corn evolved over many thousands of years, some of the duplicated genes were lost and others were shuffled around. A number of genes took on new functions.

In a study reported in the Nov. 20 issues of Science and PLoS Genetics, the researchers compared the genetic sequence of B73 with that of a second inbred strain, Mo17. They discovered an astonishing abundance of two kinds of structural variations between the pair: differences in the copy number of multiple copies of certain stretches of genetic material, and the presence of large chunks of DNA in one but not the other. In fact, at least 180 genes appearing in B73 aren't found in Mo17, and Springer, an associate professor of plant biology in the College of Biological Sciences, suspects that Mo17 likely has a similar number of genes that B73 lacks. See http://collections.plos.org/plosgenetics/maize.php
Genetic base of fungal infections
Two independent research studies, published together in the New England Journal of Medicine, used DNA sequencing and genetic mapping techniques to identify two proteins that when missing or mutated impair the body's ability to fight off the fungal Candida infection. The research findings, funded in part by the EU, could increase our understanding of the genetic basis of fungal infections and lead to new treatments not only for Candida but for other types of fungal infection too. EU support for the work came from the EUR 1.6 million MC-PIAID ('Marie-Curie grant on primary immuno-deficiencies and auto-Immune diseases') project, which was financed under the human resources and mobility budget line of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_11_17_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=13773
FATE OF RECOMBINANT DNA AND BT PROTEIN AFTER INGESTION AND DISPERSAL OF WILD BOARS AND DEER
With funding from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) examined in detail how fallow deer (Dama dama) and wild boars (Sus scrofa) metabolize genetically modified corn. Specifically, the scientists wanted to find out if transgenic residues accumulate in boar and deer meat and if the animals spread GM corn via their feces. The answer in each case is no, according to the TUM scientists.

Heinrich Mayer and colleagues fed fallow deer living in outdoor enclosures and wild boars kept in pens genetically modified corn chaff and grain corn for several weeks in a row. To study the degradability of ingested DNA, they used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays to detect fragments of GM-corn specific genes. ELISA was also used to detect the Cry1Ab protein.

Samples from the digestive tract, internal organs, blood and muscles of fallow deer all tested negative for the presence of transgenic components. "In conclusion, after uptake of GM corn, neither cry1Ab-specific gene fragments nor Cry1Ab protein were detected in the GI tract of fallow deer, indicating complete digestion of the GM corn," Mayer and colleagues wrote in the paper published by the European Journal of Wildlife Research. The researchers found small fragments of GM corn genes in the digestive tract of GM-fed wild boars. However, outside of the gastrointestinal tract the scientists found no trace whatsoever.

Mayer and his team also collected samples of feces for intact kernels capable of germination. They reported that for wild boars a mere 0.015 percent of the conventional and 0.009 percent of the GM corn kernels were excreted intact. The fallow deer were even tougher on the corn: Not a single intact and thus germinable corn could be found in their feces.

The papers published by the European Journal of Wildlife Research and Mammalian Biology are available for download at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10344-007-0104-4 and http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2008.07.002 respectively.
AUSTRALIAN RESEARCHERS WORKING TO DEVELOP DROUGHT-TOLERANT WHEAT
An international team of researchers, led by Gonzalo Estavillo and Barry Pogson at the Australian National University, has pinpointed a gene in Arabidopsis that allow plants to survive drought. Estavillo and colleagues identified the gene, called SAL1, when they were looking at different mutant varieties of Arabidopsis that had unusual responses to high light. Mutations in SAL1 enable plants to survive longer without added water. The researchers said that they are now in the process of introducing the mutant characteristics into the elite wheat cultivars currently used in agriculture industry.

For more information, read http://news.anu.edu.au/?p=1738

WAGENINGEN RESEARCHERS TO STUDY SPREAD OF THE RICE INTENSIFICATION SYSTEM
Researchers at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands are embarking on a project to investigate the adoption, spread and potential benefits of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is a methodology that proponents say increases the productivity of irrigated rice cultivation by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. It has actively been promoted for the last decade to farmers as a best management practice by some governments and NGOs. The system however is not without its critics.

For more information, read http://www.wageningenuniversity.nl/UK/newsagenda/news/SRI091103e.htm

DRAFT GENETIC SEQUENCE OF CUCUMBER COMPLETED BY CHINESE SCIENTISTS
The draft genome sequence of Cucumis sativus var. sativus L. was completed by Chinese scientists at the Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences with a novel combination of traditional Sanger and next-generation Illumina GA sequencing technologies. Results were published online in Nature Genetics on November 1, 2009.

The full text is available at http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ng.475.html

NOVEL GENE THAT CONTROLS SEED SIZE FOUND
Scientists at the University of Freiberg in Germany and the John Innes Center in the UK said they have pinpointed a gene in the model plant Arabidopsis that is responsible in controlling overall seed size. The scientists believe that manipulating this gene could lead to ways of improving crops.

The paper published by PNAS is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0907024106.

For more information, read http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/091105MichaelLenhardseedsize.htm
The Rapid Trait Development System
a genetic plant breeding technology developed by Cibus Genetics L.L.C. of San Diego, holds out hope of being a quicker, less politically charged answer to traditional genetically modified organisms, according to Peter Beetham, the company's vice president of research.

RTDS alters a targeted portion of a gene by utilizing the cell's own gene repair system. The component that effects this change is called the GRON, short for Gene Repair Oligonucleotide. It is chemically synthesized and may contain DNA, RNA and certain chemical properties. It is designed to fit like a mismatched puzzle piece into an exact location of the gene, for example, where resistance to a certain disease is expressed.

It is intentionally mismatched, carrying the new genetic code for the desired trait. Once in place, this mismatch triggers the cell's own natural gene repair enzymes, which then modify the gene itself to fit the GRON. After that, the GRON degrades and falls away, leaving the cell to naturally multiply and impart the new genetic trait to the host plant.

this kind of change, called mutagenesis, is a matter of genetic mutation in cells that can take thousands of years to build up into a survivable trait. Modern transgenic development typically takes seven to 10 years to get from genetic modification to the marketplace. The Cibus process takes from three to five years to get from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Novel protein implicated in genetic control
An international team of scientists has identified a novel protein called BAHD1 that can change chromosome structure and is responsible for the silencing of gene expression. The study, which will help improve our understanding of how genes are regulated, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The research was part of the eight-year EU-funded ERA-NET project PathoGenoMics ('Trans-European cooperation and coordination of genome sequencing and functional genomics of human-pathogenic microorganisms') which runs until 2012 with EUR 3 million in funding under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_11_20_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=13853
Genetically Modified (GM) Rice at IRRI
http://www.irri.org
November 16, 2009

Currently no varieties of genetically modified (GM) rice are grown commercially in the world, although several have been approved for commercialization. Many organizations around the world, including the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), are using genetic modification as a research tool and in developing potential GM rice varieties.

Many technologies and rice breeding techniques are needed to develop and deliver solutions to meet the challenges of food security, poverty, climate change, and resource availability that rice producers and consumers face. IRRI believes that responsible and ethical research and development of GM rice present another opportunity that should be explored to help meet these challenges.

Breeding methods have been continually evolving, becoming more sophisticated and accurate at incorporating useful genes and traits into new crop varieties. Genetic modification is a modern breeding method that is used at IRRI to investigate and understand the diversity and function of rice genes and to develop and deliver GM rice varieties.

Genetic modification to understand gene function

Genetic modification is a valuable research tool that helps rice breeders understand gene function and identify genes of interest.

IRRI has discovered regions of DNA that help rice * tolerate early submergence, drought, heat, and salinity; * resist tungro, bacterial leaf blight, and blast disease; and  * improve phosphorus-use efficiency.
IRRI is using genetic modification to help identify specific genes within these DNA regions that are responsible for these traits. Once specific genes associated with beneficial traits are identified, they can be more efficiently transferred into new rice varieties using other breeding methods. Using genetic modification in this way can improve the accuracy of identifying genes of interest and speed up the breeding process, even though the end-product is not GM rice.

This approach has been successfully used to identify submergence tolerance genes. As a result, IRRI has recently released submergence-tolerant rice - non-GM rice that can tolerate and produce good yields after two weeks under water, conditions that would decimate most other rice. Genetic modification to develop GM riceGenetic modification is also used to actually develop GM rice. It greatly increases the accuracy of incorporating only the gene of interest, and its associated trait, into a new rice variety. Unlike conventional breeding, it can entirely prevent the inclusion of unwanted genes and associated traits.

Beyond this, the unique power of GM lies in its ability to incorporate novel genes with useful traits for rice, including genes from plants and organisms unrelated to rice, into new rice varieties that cannot be achieved using other breeding methods. This is possible because all genetic information is stored in DNA - which is the common building block of all plants and animals.

IRRI has not developed any GM rice varieties yet. However, we are researching the development and delivery of GM rice with improved * drought, heat, and salinity tolerance; * photosynthetic capacity to increase yield and enable it to become more efficient in using water and nitrogen fertilizer (C4 rice); and * nutritional value of the grain, including higher pro-vitamin A, improved protein quality, and higher iron. Marker-assisted breeding is a breeding technique that also helps to more accurately breed new rice varieties and to do so in a shorter time frame.

In marker-assisted breeding, a gene or group of genes responsible for a favorable trait is identified using a DNA marker to "flag" its location. Marker-assisted breeding is being increasingly and successfully employed at IRRI to develop new rice varieties. IRRI's recently released submergence-tolerance rice is also an example of a rice variety developed using marker-assisted breeding.
IRRI AIMS TO SEQUENCE THE GENOMES OF ALL DIFFERENT TYPES OF RICE
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is asking scientists from all over the world to join in its vision of sequencing the genomes of the more than 109,000 different types of rice contained in the International Rice Genebank. IRRI said that the information will help rice breeders and farmers worldwide breed and develop new and improved rice varieties. IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler also noted that sequencing the genomes will open the door to understanding the rich genetic diversity of the crop, a staple food for more than 50 percent of the world's population.

Read the original stories at http://beta.irri.org/news/index.php/press-releases/50-years-of-rice-science-for-a-better-world-and-it-s-just-the-start.html and http://beta.irri.org/news/index.php/press-releases/entire-genetic-diversity-of-rice-to-be-revealed-and-shared.html

For more information, contact Sophie Clayton at s.clayton@cgiar.org
Oil from Biotech Soybeans Increases Key Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Humans
ScienceDaily, Nov. 16, 2009

Oil from soybeans modified through biotechnology increased levels of omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in red blood cells according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2009.

"This soybean oil could be an effective alternative to fish oil as a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids," said William Harris, Ph.D., lead author of the study and chief of cardiovascular health research at Sanford Research/USD and professor of medicine at Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, S.D. "We know that giving pure EPA to people reduces their risk for heart disease," he said. "Presumably, if you gave this special soybean oil to people, you'd do the same thing -- reduce heart attacks."

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings per week of fatty fish which is high in EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. Eating fish containing these omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fish oil contains two forms of heart-healthy, long-chain omega-3s, EPA and DHA. However, many Americans don't like eating fish because of the taste, preparation and/or concern that it may be contaminated by mercury and other pollutants.

A few plants, particularly soybeans, produce oils that contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is another type of omega-3 fatty acid. The human body converts ALA to stearidonic acid (SDA), but this is a very inefficient process. The body converts SDA to EPA far more effectively, resulting in more EPA per gram consumed.
Some Pests Prefer Organic
Phil Berardelli. ScienceNOW Daily News, November 13, 2009.

researchers at Imperial College London and two other institutions in the United Kingdom studied how three pests--two types of aphid and one species of moth--responded to the application of natural and synthetic fertilizers on cabbage plants. The team used chicken manure and other green fertilizers derived from beans and alfalfa, plus commercially produced ammonium nitrate, and applied all in both high and low concentrations. The experiment spanned two growing seasons at multiple field sites.

The team got surprisingly mixed results. The moth, Plutella xylostella, favored the conventionally fertilized plants, laying its eggs about four times more frequently on them than on organically fertilized cabbage. One aphid, Myzus persicae, also preferred the commercial fertilizer, laying eggs on ammonium nitrate-fed plants twice as often as on plants fed with organic fertilizer. But the other aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae, preferred the organically grown variety by about a three-to-one egg-laying margin, the researchers [http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/11/10/rspb.2009.1631.abstract] report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The lesson here, says entomologist and co-author Simon Leather, is that the complex chemical interactions between fertilizer and plant can be unpredictable, repelling some pests but attracting others. "One size does not fit all," he says.

Biologist Gordon Port of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom agrees, calling the work a "robust" study. What remains to be seen, he says, is how the natural enemies of the pests (such as ladybugs for the aphids and wasps and spiders for the moths) react to the two different types of fertilizers
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