News in January 2010
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2010-02-02

General

The Regulatory Bias The voice from Australia
David Leyonhjelm , AGRIBUZZ (Australia) DEC 21, 2009
http://www.businessspectator.com.au/

The developers must submit the plant for regulatory approval supported by scientific data showing no health risk to consumers or threat to the environment. It cannot be released into the environment or sold to consumers without exhaustive scrutiny. However, cross breeding changes a lot more than a single gene. Indeed, hundreds of genes are altered in the process of achieving that one change. The bias also favours those growing and handling conventional crops.

In the US, Bayer CropScience was recently ordered to pay some $US2 million in damages to two rice farmers as a result of contamination in 2006 of their crop with GM rice. The 'contaminant', for want of a better word, was rice that had been modified to tolerate the common herbicide Basta (glufosinate). Its only crime was that it had not yet received regulatory approval. Although the source of the contamination was never identified, and the rice was actually quite harmless, Bayer was blamed because it had developed the rice and is a large multinational chemical company. Anti-GM fundamentalists like Greenpeace have been using the case for propaganda purposes ever since.

Which brings us back to the regulatory bias. If the rice had been developed with herbicide tolerance through conventional means - and there are canola varieties that have been developed this way - the situation would have been quite different. Contamination of the neighbouring crop would not have been viewed as a problem unless it caused an actual, provable loss. Regulatory approval would not be relevant. Export markets would be unconcerned. There would be no public controversy, and Greenpeace would have no scary monster story to tell.

This reflects the success of Greenpeace propaganda far more than science. Imagine how much better the world would be if governments simply left these things to the market place, so we could each decide for ourselves. And how much lower our taxes would be.
Greenpeace Backing Down on GMOs
AfricaBio, January 6, 2010

Kumi Naidoo of Durban , the South African born newly appointed executive director of Greenpeace International, in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, on the question of Golden Rice, said:"In view of developments like Golden Rice, Greenpeace must reconsider its position with regard to GMOs. We must make sure not to dismiss new and important developments."

This is the second positive statement from Greenpeace on Golden Rice, Prof Webster emphasised. She pointed out that in February 2001 at the BioVision Conference in Lyon , France , Benedict Haerlin, genetic engineering coordinator of Greenpeace, also backed down from the stand against GM crops. He admitted that Greenpeace would not oppose field trials of Golden Rice being developed to combat blindness in the Third World . (Daily Telegraph, London , 10 February 2001)

"I'm sure that South African born Naidoo is encouraged by the success of GM crop production in South Africa over the past eleven years. There have been no adverse effects on human and animal health nor the environment. Main beneficiaries have undoubtedly been the thousands of smallholder farmers who have increased their yields by up to 30%, providing them with a sustainable food supply," according to Prof Webster.

Commenting on Naidoo's remarks, Professor Klaus Ammann, eminent Swiss scientist said: "Greenpeace's aggressiveness towards Golden Rice and Naidoo's encouraging stance will soon turn into a major success like Bt rice in China. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of rice and has just approved the production of GM rice promising a yield increase of 8% and an 80% decrease in insecticides."
Green Godfather Delivers Heretical Message
- Susie Weldon, Bristol 24-7 (UK), Jan 20, 2010
http://www.bristol247.com/

Stewart Brand told a 400-strong audience at St George's, Bristol:

bulletThere was "no hope" of mitigating against climate change;
bulletNuclear power was the only way we could provide enough clean energy for the world;
bulletCities were greener than the countryside;
bulletGenetically modified crops were necessary to feed the world's growing population.

Brand is widely regarded as one of the great visionaries of the environmental movement. Now aged over 70, the American was invited to Bristol as part of the city's Festival of Ideas. He outlined the thesis of his latest book, Whole Earth Discipline, in a fascinating and disturbing discussion with the musician and cultural critic Brian Eno at St Georg.

On GM, Brand said he was persuaded it was "absolutely the way to go. GM food crops have been the most successful breakthrough in agriculture, maybe ever, and are being adopted everywhere except Europe".e's.

Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand, Ł19.99, is published by Atlantic Books.
'GM Organics' Paper Awarded International Society of Bioethics 2009 Prize
The International Society of Bioethics has decided to award its 2009 prize to the paper entitled "More sustainable food: genetically modified seeds in organic farming". You can find the announcement here:  http://www.sibi.org/ingles/jgp/index.htm

House of Representatives of the Principality of  Asturias - International Society of Bioethics (SIBI)  has awarded the Prize to the paper presented by Mrs. Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Pharmacy Faculty. University of the Basque Country (Spain).

The awarded work, a complete study reflected in more than 100 pages, affirms that ecological agriculture is not sustainable long term due to his under yield, reason why, following this form of culture, a quantitative increase would be needed cultivable surface to do against the increasing demand of foods. http://tinyurl.com/yhffykl

Books & Articles

Books and Articles
Andy Coghlan, The New Scientist, Jan 22, 2010

The re-analysis of the data by Monsanto on snímal trstiny of kauza MON 810, MON 853 and NK 603 led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen in France, concludes that the rats showed statistically significant signs of liver and kidney toxicity (International Journal of Biological Sciences, vol 5, p 706). However France's High Council of Biotechnology has said that the study provides no new evidence of toxicity from the three maizes. Independent toxicologists contacted by New Scientist said Séralini's analysis overplays the importance of minor variations that most experienced toxicologists would consider to be random background noise.

Séralini case: GM Corn & Organ Failure: Lots of Sensationalism, Few Facts
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/01/15/gm-corn-organ-failure-lots-of-sensationalism-few-facts/

Karl Haro von Mogel, a University of Wisconsin Ph.D. student who works with Pamela Ronald: "At the 95% significance level, you would expect that 5% of the observations would show a significant difference due to chance alone, which is what happened.”

Séralini and others published a paper in 2007 on the same issues, and after statistical criticisms like the ones just mentioned the authors came around with this new edition. One of the main shots scientists took at the previous paper, Haro von Mogel says, was that the team didn't employ a "false discovery rate"-a stringent statistical method that controls for false positives. This time they did, but for at least two of the three varieties-MON 810 and MON 863-the researchers themselves note p-values that are not significant.

As you can see in the study's chart, there a significant effect shown in "Lar uni cell" (large unnucleated cell count) for female rats fed the GM corn as 11 percent of their diet. But for female rats fed three times as much GM corn, it's not there. "Are they highlighting random variation or finding genuine effects? These are the kinds of questions that scientists need to address before concluding that they have found 'signs of toxicity,'"

The government organization Food Standards for Australia and New Zealand (which disputed Séralini's 2007 paper.

Their response concludes by saying, "The authors do not offer any plausible scientific explanations for their hypothesis, nor do they consider the lack of concordance of the statistics with other investigative processes used in the studies such as pathology, histopathology and histochemisty - Reliance solely on statistics to determine treatment related effects in such studies is not indicative of a robust toxicological analysis. There is no corroborating evidence that would lead independently to the conclusion that there were effects of toxicological significance. FSANZ remains confident that the changes reported in these studies are neither sex- nor dose-related and are primarily due to chance alone."
Study Says Monsanto's Genetically Modified Corn Is Toxic. But Is It?
- Dan Mitchell, Slate - The Big Money, January 14, 2010
http://www.thebigmoney.com/blogs/daily-bread/2010/01/14/study-says-monsantos-genetically-modified-corn-toxic-it?page=full

A study published by the International Journal of Biological Sciences concludes that three types of Monsanto's genetically modified corn cause organ damage in rats.

Discover also found some details surrounding the study to be "fishy," including the fact that the environmental group Greenpeace contributed to the early part of the study and the fact that the International Journal of Biological Sciences is "somewhat obscure" and hasn't been officially assessed for quality.
Monsanto Corn Causes Organ Damage? Not So
- Dan Goldstein (aka Dr. Dan) January 12, 2010
http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2010/01/12/monsanto-addresses-study/

In the current paper (de Vendomois et al., 2009) as with the prior publication (Seralini et al, 2007), Seralini and his colleagues use non-traditional statistical methods to reassess toxicology data from studies conducted with MON 863, MON 810 and NK603 corn varieties, and reach unsubstantiated conclusions.

bulletThe French High Counsel on Biotechnology (HCB) has considered both the de Vendomois (2009) and Seralini (2007) papers and has found that these papers make no useful contribution to the safety assessment.
bulletThe Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have also dismissed this study, stating, "Séralini and colleagues have distorted the toxicological significance of their results by placing undue emphasis on the statistical treatment of data, and failing to take other relevant factors into account." (se above).

Statistical fluctuations occur commonly in any large study with many endpoints, and statistical significance alone does not determine when an observation can be translated into evidence of risk. Making this determination requires consideration of:

bulletdose-related trends (higher dose should produce greater effect)
bulletreproducibility
bulletrelationship to other findings such as abnormal organ appearance on pathology examinations
bulletthe magnitude of the differences and the relationship of the findings to the normal range of values
bulletoccurrence of a particular finding in both sexes (adjusting for known gender related differences in some tests)
When Cooperation Fails: The International Law and Politics of Genetically Modified Foods
- New book by Mark A. Pollack and Gregory C. Shaffer,  Paperback, 456 pages,
Oxford University Press, USA (July 26, 2009) ISBN-13: 978-0199567058, Amazon.com $20.69

The transatlantic dispute over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has brought into conflict the United States and the European Union, two long-time allies and economically interdependent democracies with a long record of successful cooperation. Yet the dispute - pitting a largely acceptant US against an EU deeply suspicious of GMOs - has developed into one of the most bitter and intractable transatlantic and global conflicts, resisting efforts at negotiated resolution and resulting in a bitterly contested legal battle before the World Trade Organization.

GM Fears May Harm Needy, Says Scientist
- Eloise Gibson, New Zealand Herald, Jan 28, 2010

Hillary Clinton's science adviser has ruffled the feathers of the anti-GM lobby, calling their arguments "tragically bad" and saying public fears risk blocking food from the needy when climate change hits. Nina Fedoroff, science adviser to the United States Secretary of State, says people will starve if climate change cuts water supplies and raises temperatures while people remain too afraid to use genetically modified crops.

Lack of GMOs Costs Lives, Claims Leading Scientist
- Philip Clarke, Farmers Weekly (UK), January 20, 2010   http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2010/01/20/119600/Lack-of-GMOs-costs-lives-claims-leading-scientist.htm.

Many human lives have been lost due to the reluctance of some countries to accept genetically modified crops, former government chief scientific adviser, Sir David King has claimed.

Addressing the annual City Food Lecture in London's Guildhall this week, Sir David cited the example of flood-resistant rice which had taken over five years to develop using conventional breeding techniques and genetic markers, when it could have been done in two using GM technology.

The drop in rice production in 2007, due to flooding just after planting, was a major factor behind the price hike in 2008 that led to food riots and starvation in some parts of the world, he said. Yet the "submergence-tolerant" rice gene had been known about for years. Had gene-splicing been used to insert this into commercial varieties, it would have been available within two years.

But this was rejected by Soil Association director Patrick Holden, who described the dominance of a small number of GM maize and soya varieties in North America as "dangerous".
Bt Crops and Invertebrate Non-target Effects
- Revisited Source: ISB News Author: Steven E. Naranjo

This article says the debate continues on whether the insecticidal toxin produced by Bt crops has a negative effect on non-target insects, but meta-analysis has the potential to "focus the debate" by providing a robust and quantitative framework for combining results from multiple independent studies. Several meta-analyses of the existing scholarly literature have been conducted, and "have largely shown the expected lack of effect of Bt proteins on non-target invertebrates," the article reports. The article can be viewed online at the link below.

http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2009/Dec09.pdf
GM Plants: Science, Politics and EC Regulations (Review)
- John Davison, Plant Science, An international journal of experimental plant biology. Jan 2010. Elsevier.
Full paper at  http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/506030/description#description
(Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Versailles, France)

The EU has the probably strictest regulations in the world for the presence of GMOs in food and feed. These require the labeling of food and feed where the level of approved GMO exceeds 0.9% of unintentional adventitious presence. For non-approved GMOs the threshold is 'zero' and thus requires that cargoes containing GMOs non-approved GMOs are returned to the port of origin or are destroyed. The process of GMO safety approval is slow and subject to extensive political interference. However outside of Europe, new GMOs are being created, approved and cultivated at a rate exceeding that of EU approvals.

Since current methods of cultivation, storage and transport do not permit complete segregation of GMO and non-GMO crops, some co-mingling must be expected. This leads to a peculiar situation where the EU is dependent on imports (particularly soybean for animal feed) from North and South America and yet, legally, must reject these imports since they contain low levels of unauthorized GMOs. Several authorative European reports indicate that this is not a sustainable situation and must result in feed shortages and price increases of meat and poultry. The solution is to either to modify EU regulations or to synchronize GMOs approvals on an international level.

The USA has constantly criticized the EU for its unscientific GMO regulations which it says amounts to trade protectionism. Very recently however, the USA has realized that other countries are now producing and cultivating their own GMOs, and that these are not authorized in the USA. The USA is thus proposing to set up its own system of GMO regulations which may bear a close similarity to those in Europe.
Find what you are looking for!
http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/index_en.cfm?pg=archive

You can now search for documents via the Documents Archive page. By default, all documents are listed here in alphabetical order but you can also select specific documents related to specific years, framework programmes and topics via drop-down selection lists.

There is also a custom search on the Home page which covers the whole site to bring you both pages and documents related to your search terms.
Keyword index
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index/indextc_en.cfm

It now contains over 13000 English keywords to help you find what (or who!) you are looking for. It also contains more than 6200 keywords in French, over 5600 in German, 4000 in Spanish and 350-400 in Italian and Dutch.

This publication aims to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date status of the field trials and commercialization of biotech crops in India in 2008. It also includes the most authoritative coverage and statistics of Bt cotton, including hectarage of Bt cotton hybrids planted in India, numbers of farmers growing hybrids and approval of different events and hybrids in India from 2002 to 2008.
GM Food Safety Training Package
- FAO Biotech News, http://www.fao.org/biotech

FAO's Food Quality and Standards Service has recently published "GM food safety assessment: Tools for trainers". The training package is composed of three parts. The first, 'Principles of safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants', provides guidance for the implementation of an effective framework for safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants. See http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0110e/i0110e00.htm (in English, French and Spanish) or contact Masami.Takeuchi@fao.org for more information.

Socio-Economic Impacts of Green Biotechnology
- EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, has released a document on Socio-Economic Impacts of Green Biotechnology.  It discusses the status of green biotechnology, socio-economic impacts at the global and European levels, and ecological impacts of biotech crops.The report can be downloaded at  http://www.europabio.org/positions/GBE/PP_080110-Socio-economic-impacts-of-GM-Crops-GMO.pdf
Plant Biotechnology: The Genetic Manipulation of Plants
- Book by Adrian Slater, Nigel W. Scott, & Mark R. Fowler. 2008,  $37.60, Paperback, 372 pages,  Oxford University Press, USA;  ISBN-10: 0199282617

The second edition of Plant Biotechnology: The Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants presents a balanced, objective exploration of the technology behind genetic manipulation, and the application of this technology to the growth and cultivation of plants. The book describes the techniques underpinning genetic manipulation in a clear, lucid manner, and this influential tool is used in practice.

'Misinformation is rife, sadly, and there is a clear need for good sources of accurate and appropriate accounts of plant biotechnology development. Adrian Slater, Nigel Scott and Mark Fowler have produced just such a textbook, providing a critical appraisal of the genetic manipulation of crop plants for advanced undergraduate study and the postgraduate student market.' W. Paul Davies, Annals of Botany, Vol. 94. No 4, October 2004.
Denialism : How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives
- Book by Michael Specter, Penguin Press, $18.45, 2009, ISBN-10: 1594202303

In Denialism, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter reveals that Americans have come to mistrust institutions and especially the institution of science more today than ever before.

For centuries, the general view had been that science is neither good nor bad-that it merely supplies information and that new information is always beneficial. Now, science is viewed as a political constituency that isn't always in our best interest. We live in a world where the leaders of African nations prefer to let their citizens starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains. Childhood vaccines have proven to be the most effective public health measure in history, yet people march on Washington to protest their use. In the United States a growing series of studies show that dietary supplements and "natural" cures have almost no value, and often cause harm.

We still spend billions of dollars on them. In hundreds of the best universities in the world, laboratories are anonymous, unmarked, and surrounded by platoons of security guards-such is the opposition to any research that includes experiments with animals. And pharmaceutical companies that just forty years ago were perhaps the most visible symbol of our remarkable advance against disease have increasingly been seen as callous corporations propelled solely by avarice and greed.

As Michael Specter sees it, this amounts to a war against progress. The issues may be complex but the choices are not: Are we going to continue to embrace new technologies, along with acknowledging their limitations and threats, or are we ready to slink back into an era of magical thinking? In Denialism, Specter makes an argument for a new Enlightenment, the revival of an approach to the physical world that was stunningly effective for hundreds of years: What can be understood and reliably repeated by experiment is what nature regarded as true. Now, at the time of mankind's greatest scientific advances-and our greatest need for them-that deal must be renewed.
International Trade and The Global Pipeline of New GM Crops
- Alexander J Stein  & Emilio Rodríguez-Cerezo, Nature Biotechnology 28, 23 - 25 (2010)

In a previous issue, Paul Christou and colleagues highlighted the patchwork of laws and regulations governing tolerance levels for approved genetically modified (GM) material in non-GM food and in the labeling and traceability of GM products. A related but different problem is that of 'asynchronous approval' of new GM crops across international jurisdictions, which is of growing concern due to its potential impact on global trade. Different countries have different authorization procedures and, even if regulatory dossiers are submitted at the same time, approval is not given simultaneously (in some cases, delays can even amount to years).

ISB NEWS REPORT • JANUARY 2010
AGRICULTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2010/Jan10.pdf

Contains

THE ACCUMULATION OF NOVEL OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS IN TRANSGENIC PLANTS
Johnathan Napier, Noemi Ruiz-Lopez, Tianbi Li, Richard Haslam, Olga Sayanova

FEEDING FUTURE POPULATIONS WITH NUTRITIONALLY COMPLETE CROPS
Sonia Gomez-Galera, Shaista Naqvi, Gemma Farre , Georgina Sanahuja,
Chao Bai, Teresa Capell, Changfu Zhu, and Paul Christou

IRON BIOFORTIFICATION OF RICE BY TARGETED GENETIC ENGINEERING
Christof Sautter and Wilhelm Gruissem

BIOFORTIFICATION OF VITAMIN B6 IN SEEDS
Hao Chen, Liming Xiong
Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding
- A  New Book by Noel Kingsbury, The University of Chicago Press,  2009 Amazon.com price  $23.10,  512 pages, ISBN-10: 0226437043

Disheartened by the shrink-wrapped, Styrofoam-packed state of contemporary supermarket fruits and vegetables, many shoppers hark back to a more innocent time, to visions of succulent red tomatoes plucked straight from the vine, gleaming orange carrots pulled from loamy brown soil, swirling heads of green lettuce basking in the sun.

Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty
 For more than thirty years, humankind has known how to grow enough food to end chronic hunger worldwide. Yet while the "Green Revolution" succeeded in South America and Asia, it never got to Africa. More than 9 million people every year die of hunger, malnutrition, and related diseases every year-most of them in Africa and most of them children. More die of hunger in Africa than from AIDS and malaria combined. Now, an impending global food crisis threatens to make things worse. In the west we think of famine as a natural disaster, brought about by drought; or as the legacy of brutal dictators. But in this powerful investigative narrative, Thurow & Kilman show exactly how, in the past few decades, American, British, and European policies conspired to keep Africa hungry and unable to feed itself. As a new generation of activists work to keep famine from spreading, Enough is essential reading on a humanitarian issue of utmost urgency.

"How in a world of plenty can people be left to starve? We think, 'It's just the way of the world.' But if it is the way of the world, we must overthrow the way of the world. Enough is enough!

- New Book By Roger Thurow & Scott Kilman, One World Books, 2009, $27.95, 416 pages, ISBN13: 9781586485115 http://astore.amazon.com/oneworld.net03-20/detail/1586485113
Nitrogen-use Efficiency, The Next Green Revolution
Matt Ridley, The Economist, The World in 2010 print edition, Nov 13, 2009
http://www.economist.com/
The book "Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development"
was launched at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya on January 27, 2010. It was written by researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Authors David Spielman and Rajul Pandya-Lorch presented 20 documented case studies in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America of large-scale initiatives which have made substantial, long-term impacts. These stories include achievements in increasing the yields and production of staple food crops, expanding markets, developing better policies, conserving natural resources, and improving nutrition. The case studies were chosen through a rigorous process that included an open call for nominations, an extensive literature review, and expert interviews. For more information, use the link: http://www.ifpri.org/book-5826/ourwork/programs/2020-vision-food-agriculture-and-environment/millions-fed-intiative

PUBLICATION ON SCIENCE FOR DECISION MAKERS
The Bureau of Rural Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry in Australia has published Science for Decision Makers - Plant Gene Technology: Improving the Productivity of Australian Agriculture. Among the topics include an introduction to conventional breeding to plant gene technology, global and Australian status of GM technology, regulations of GM crops in Australia, and benefits of the technology.
Download http://adl.brs.gov.au/brsShop/data/SFDM_GeneTech_14DecembeR2009.pdf for a copy of the publication.
Templeton Foundation, http://www.templeton.org
Sir John Templeton was keenly interested in genetics precisely for its potential to provide such large-scale, transformative breakthroughs. He understood that major advances in genetics might serve to empower individuals and even to provide paths out of poverty. By asking "Can GM Crops Feed the World?" the Foundation hopes to generate interest in a range of possible lines of inquiry.

The Foundation is still refining this Funding Priority for launch later this year. By June 1, we expect to post several Big Questions for applicants to consider as they prepare to submit Online Funding Inquiries starting on August 1.

Events

GMOs in European Agriculture and Food Production
The international conference on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in European Agriculture and Food Production was held at the initiative of Ms. Gerda Verburg, minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands and Ms. Jacqueline Cramer, minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning of The Netherlands. The conference took place on 25 and 26 November 2009 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Report available on http://www.minlnv.nl/portal/page?_pageid=116,1640360&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&p_file_id=47648 and http://www.minlnv.nl/gmoconference2009.

26 February 2010, Welwyn Garden City, UK

After our successful Bacteriophage Applications - current and potential applications in biotechnology, agriculture and medicine event which took place 16th May 2006 and Bacteriophages: Nature and Exploitation event which took place in 22 February 2008 we are delighted to announce our follow up event.

08 - 09 July 2010, Brussels, Belgium

In 2010, Select Biosciences will be holding it's annual and highly successful AgriGenomics World Congress in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting is being expanded to include two tracks – one for advances in animal genomics and one for plant genomic.

2nd International Symposium on “Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources”
(GPGR2) to be held in Bologna, from April 24 to 27, 2010.

This 2nd edition of the symposium series follows the 1st edition that was organized by Dr. Jia Jizeng at CAAS, Beijing, China, from April 25 to 27, 2005.

Organised vy the Bioversity International (Rome, Italy), the IPK (Gatersleben, Germany) and the University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy). The main theme of this 2nd edition will be “Harnessing plant biodiversity for food security and nutritional quality”. The abstract deadline has been set for February 15, 2010. www.gpgr2.comm
International Conference on Biotechnology and Food Science
- Bangalore, India, February 9-10, 2010
http://www.iacsit.org/icbfs/index.htm

The aim objective of ICBFS 2010 is to provide a platform for researchers, engineers, academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results and development activities in Biotechnology and Food Science.

Report of the International Public Health Symposium on Environment and Health Research (20-22 October 2008
http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index_en.cfm?pg=health#hbm
14th International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition
Rimini (Italy), September 14-18, 2010
http://www.ibs2010.org/programme.asp
OECD Forum 2010 will be held on 26th and 27th May 2010
at the OECD Conference Centre, Paris.

The annual OECD Forum is your chance to take part in the debate on major international policy issues alongside the OECD Ministerial meeting. More than 10 000 people from all parts of society have already exchanged ideas and experiences, and played their part in shaping the responses to global challenges.

Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance Symposium
Colorado State University, 24-25 June 2010

http://www.droughtadaptation.org/Symposium/ Annie Heiliger, Program Assistant annie707@rams.colostate.edu

The 9th International Symposium on Plant Biotechnology
organized by the Instituto de Biotechnologia de las Plantas, will be held April 20-22, 2010 at Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba.

Topics for discussion include plant breeding; biofortification and metabolic engineering; functional genomics and proteomics; and biotechnology, climate change and food security. For more information visit http://simposio.ibp.co.cu/

Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries
The FAO international technical conference Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10) will be held in Guadalajara on March 1-4, 2010. Host of the conference will be the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

For further information email ABDC@fao.org or visit http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/en/

The 2010 International Conference on Biotechnology and Food
Science (ICBFS 2010) http://www.iacsit.org/icbfs/

will be held in Bangalore, India on February 9-10, 2010. The conference aims to provide a platform for researchers, academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results and development activities in biotechnology and food science.

Europe - EU

Europe’s resistance to GMO hurts Africa
BUSINESS DAILY
http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Company%20Industry/-/539550/842342/-/t4nmctz/-/
Thursday, January 14 2010 at 18:45

Europe’s resistance to genetically modified crop production in Africa is a major challenge to tackling Africa’s food insecurity, according to experts.

Dr Sylvester Oikeh, manager of a drought-tolerant maize project for Africa, told a recent science workshop that EU countries opposed use of gene transfer technology to improve food production in Africa because Europe had enough food.

He accused European countries of hypocrisy saying they promote GM medicines while opposing the same technology in agriculture.

“They produce enough food for themselves, and their need is to live longer. So, while they discourage use of gene technology to produce food in Africa, they use the same to produce drugs and vaccines,” he told science journalists and researchers.

He added that there were also some “political issues” informing Europe’s stand on GM foods, saying that African countries that export cotton were being held hostage as a result.

“They (EU) tell African countries that export cotton to them that ‘if you grow genetically enhanced cotton, we will not buy’.”
Conventional and alternative medicine
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_01_08_en.html&item=&artid=14453

A growing number of people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for disorders they feel cannot be treated with conventional therapy. This number tops the 100 million mark in the EU alone. However, the challenge faced by CAM practitioners is the lack of funding and scientific cooperation that hampers this area of medicine. Enter the EU-funded CAMbrella project that is determined to solve this problem. With EUR 1.5 million in support under the 'Health' Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), CAMbrella kick-starts on 1 January 2010.

Europe

Czech Centre for health-state of environment
The European Union has granted over EUR 24 million in funding to researchers in the Czech Republic to investigate the link between the state of the environment and of the population's health. Masaryk University (MU), the Veterinary Research Institute and the Institute of Scientific Instruments will use the funding to construct a new research centre and purchase equipment. The doors of the new centre are expected to open in 2012. http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_01_29_en.html&item=&artid=14753
Oxford Farming Conference
Was organised on January 4. to 6.
http://www.ofc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43&Itemid=64
http://www.ofc.org.uk/images/stories/File/FINAL_OFC%20Science%20farmer%20and%20food%20chain%20research%20announced.pdf

Farmers, scientists, the food industry and the Government must work more closely if UK agriculture is to increase production while protecting the environment. That was a key finding of two pieces of unique research into future agricultural science needs revealed at the Oxford Farming Conference today (6th January 2010).

The OFC research was carried out in association with dairy nutrition company Volac and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. It consisted of a survey of 600 farmers by the National Farm Research Unit and the views of 10 technical specialists in the food industry gathered by the IGD.

The results were presented to conference delegates by Professor David Leaver, former Principal of the Royal Agricultural College and a member of the Government’s Council of Food Policy Advisors.

Plant breeding was identified as the most important future production development, with GM technology seen as playing a significant role. Soil and water management techniques were also regarded as very important if farming is to be sustainable in the future. Prevention and control of animal diseases were also seen as key areas for research, as were animal genetics, nutrition and welfare.
Britain Could Face Famine in 20 Years
Daily Mirror (UK), Jan 4, 2010

Britain could go hungry within 20 years as climate change, population growth, overfishing and scarce fuel pose a serious threat to food supplies, says a report out tomorrow.Big changes are needed to the way we farm and eat, warns the Government's Food 2030 study. Consumers will be told to accept genetically modified crops if science proves they are safe and the UK must grow more food of its own. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn is to urge people to eat more healthily and cut down on waste when he launches the report at the Oxford farming conference. For details on the press release, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/latest/2010/food-0105.htm

Read http://www.ofc.org.uk/images/stories/File/Beddington%202010_Key%20issues%20Ag%20science.pdf and http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2010/100106-only-greater-agricultural-science-co-operation-will-deliver-gains.html for more information.
Organic farmers Must Embrace GM Crops If We Are to Feed The World, Says Scientist
- Mark Henderson, Times (UK), Jan 13, 2010 http://www.timesonline.co.uk

'Genetically modified soya can have benefits, Professor Gordon Conway says

The organic movement should overcome its hostility to genetically modified crops and embrace the contribution that they can make to sustainable farming, one of the world's leading agricultural scientists has told The Times.

Although organic farmers are among the most implacable opponents of genetic engineering, it should be accepted as legitimate, according to Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London and a former government adviser.

In an interview with The Times, he said that the ban on organic farmers using GM crops was based on an excessively rigid rejection of synthetic approaches to farming and a misconception that natural ways were safer and more environment- friendly than man-made ones.

Farmers, he said, should use the best aspects of organic methods and GM technology to maximise yields while limiting damage to ecosystems. He accepted that organic lobbyists would regard the idea as heresy, but said that genetic engine Instead of concentrating on natural, farmers should pick and choose the most sustainable options regardless of their origin. "If we are going to get a sustainable, resilient world, we need appropriate technologies and we should not go in with a rigid set of preconceptions," he said. "I think we are going to end up in a very interesting hybrid world in which we choose the technology because it is appropriate, not because of where it has come from. And 2050 will be like that: it will not be completely high-technology, and it will not be a completely back-tonature world." ering could create better organic crops than those grown today with further environmental benefits.
COURT OF APPEALS OF VERSAILLES RECOGNIZES RIGHT TO RESEARCH ON PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY
Seed companies in France have filed an application to resume testing of transgenic maize in open field after the Court of Appeals of Versailles sentenced to three months the 53 anti-GM corn growers who destroyed the transgenic corn plot in Poinville (Eure-et-Loir) in 2007. The international group Seeds and Seedlings (GNIS) is hopeful that the testing will be carried out to its completion. "The government has announced that research on biotechnology is recognized as a national priority as it should benefit from the distribution of large funds; we now expect it proves a concrete act by allowing the faster resumption of testing," said Philip Gratian spokes- person of GNIS.

The French version can be seen at http://www.agrisalon.com/06-actu/article-23479.phpp

DECLINES OF MANAGED HONEY BEES AND BEEKEEPERS IN EUROPE
A new study published by the Journal of Apicultural Research provides an overview of the population trends for honey bee colonies and beekeepers in Europe. The paper found consistent declines in colony numbers in central European countries and some increases in Mediterranean countries. The report linked the decline to the decreasing number of beekeepers. As other pollinators such as wild bees and hoverflies are also in decline, this could be a potential danger for pollinator services, on which many arable crops depend, according to the authors of the paper.

The number of bee colonies in Central Europe has decreased over recent decades. In 2007, a kind of bee colony die-off was reported in the United States. The phenomenon, termed "colony collapse disorder" (CCD), could result in loses of up to 90 percent in some bee hives. Similar observations were made in some European countries, particularly in Switzerland and Germany. The cause of CCD is not known, although various factors are thought to be responsible including diseases, pesticide exposure and climate change. The scientists emphasized that through the investigation, the mystery of bee losses has by no means been solved.

Read the paper published by the Journal of Apicultural Research at http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/20091221_30
GERMANY - More tough regulation of GMO
Representatives of the German Food Industry are demanding more comprehensive labeling of products with ingredients sourced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In an interview by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, National Federation of the German Food Industry (BVE) CEO, Matthias Horst demanded "transparency." He said that if genetic engineering has been involved in the production of a product, then this must be stated on the product's label.

Gerhard Sonnleitner, president of the German Farmers' Association, also criticized current labeling regulations. He was quoted by GMO Compass as saying "It is misleading when the vitamins, enzymes and vaccines produced with genetic engineering that are used in animal husbandry do not need to be declared. All feed today contains traces of genetic engineering. Yet milk and meat derived from that is allowed to carry a GM-free stamp."

The original story is available at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/484.docu.html
Deliberate release into the environment of GMOs
(means controlled field testing):

Czech Republic - LIMAGRAIN CENTRAL EUROPE: - genetically modified maize tolerant to glyphosate.

Germany - Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe: - DP-ř9814ř-6xDAS-ř15ř7-1xDAS-59122-7, DP-ř9814ř-6xDAS-ř15ř7-1, DP-ř9814ř-6xDAS-59122-7, DAS-ř15ř7-1xDAS-59122-7 maize and the parental lines DAS-ř15ř7-1, DAS-59122-7, DP-ř9814ř-6 maize

Hungary - Szent István University: - Maize with the cry1F gene, the UBIZM1(2) promoter, the ORF25PolyA terminator. And with the pat gene, the CaMV35S promoter, the CaMV35S terminator. Another maize that has been genetically modified so that it can tolerate application of herbicides containing glyphosate and a range of ALS-inhibiting herbicides such as sulfonylureas for the weeding of the maize crop.

Slovakia - Plant Production Research Center Piešťany: - sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) lines and hybrids derived from transformation event H7-1 tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. Field trial of genetically modified maize tolerant to glyphosate. Application to perform field trials with GA21 maize in Slovakia

Spain - Monsanto Europe, S.A. - Continuing the field testing of maize varieties derived from NK603 lineMON 89034, hybrides NK603 x MON 810, MON 89034 x MON 88017 and MON 89034 x NK603 maize.

Procase Semillas - trials for registration of maize varieties resistant to certain Lepidopteran insect pests.

SESVANDERHAVE IBÉRICA, S.L. - Field evaluation of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) lines and hybrids derived from transformation event H7-1 tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate

Centro Nacional de Biotecnología- CSIC : Potato transgenic lines resistant to heat stress.

Sweden - Plant Science Sweden AB: - Two Potato lines EH92-527-1 and AM04-1020 with an altered starch composition. SBVR111

Syngenta Seeds AB: - Sugar beet tolerant to glyphosate. . Rhizomania resistant sugar beets.

Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Alnarp, LTJ, SLU Effects of transgenic apple rootstocks M26 and M9 and pear rootstock BP10030 on growth characteristics of 5 apple cultivars and 3 pear cultivars in comparison with the non-transgenic rootstocks.

United Kingdom - University of Leeds Control of potato cyst-nematodes with minimised environmental impact
Pea trials flee to US
Anna Meldolesi
Nature Biotechnology 28, 8 (2010)
doi:10.1038/nbt0110-8b

Introduction

Field trials of transgenic peas developed by a European university may relocate overseas to ensure a biotech-friendly environment. The University of Hannover in Germany is eyeing North Dakota as a safe place to evaluate several genetically modified (GM) pea lines intended as animal feed, under field conditions, marking the first time that EU-funded plant research has been forced to emigrate. “Vandals are seen as heroes by some media. [Field trial] locations have to be disclosed precisely so that the eco-terrorists can program their GPS,” says Hans-Jörg Jacobsen, whose laboratory engineered the GM peas to express one or more antifungal genes. The relocation will be part of a scientific collaboration still under negotiation with the North Dakota State University (NDSU). Pollen flow is not a problem because peas are self-fertilizing plants, but in Germany, field testing could get into trouble anyway, and Jacobsen predicts there is an 80% chance the fields would be destroyed.

“We face a militant resistance, which is extremely difficult to handle by a scientist which usually has only a small budget and limited personnel,” sympathizes Jens Katzek from BIO Mitteldeutschland, a cluster promoting biotech. US trials are not expected to begin before 2011 for logistical reasons and will be performed ensuring “the highest level of containment and separation from commercial pea production channels,” says Kevin McPhee a plant geneticist at NDSU.
UKRAINE REQUIRES MANDATORY LABELING OF GM FOODS
The Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, has adopted new laws requiring the mandatory labeling of all products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Before the laws, only products which contained more than 0.9 percent required labeling. According to a report by the Kyiv Post, based on the new laws' provisions, all food products in circulation in Ukraine must contain information on the presence or absence of GMO ingredients, as reflected on labels with the inscriptions "With GMOs" or "Without GMOs" respectively.

According to the Post, 375 MPs out of the 435 registered in the session hall voted for the bill amending the laws on "safety and quality of food products" and "the protection of consumers' rights."

For more information read http://www.bsba.ag/  and http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/55332/

America

Green Light Again for GM Alfalfa in the USA
- GMO Compass, Jan. 21,  2010  http://www.gmo-compass.org
More info http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/alfalfa.shtml

In the USA, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to permit the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa once more. This recommendation is based on a newly-completed environmental impact assessment. Year-long legal conflicts were antecedent. The UDSA has completed the environmental impact assessment ordered by the court. The report of 1,500 pages was published shortly before Christmas. The public may raise objections until the 16th of February. The report concludes that environmental damage, such as problems caused by new or more strongly emerging weeds, is "unlikely". The USDA recommends that the unconditional cultivation of GM alfalfa be permitted.

TEST RESULTS INDICATE NO LIBERTY LINK IN 2009 US RICE CROP
Results of the voluntary testing of the 2009 rice crop for the presence of genetically-engineered Liberty Link (LL) trait, released by the USA Rice Federation on January 26, 2010, showed that all tested negative. The tests were conducted since 2006 upon the announcement of the United States Department of Agriculture in August 18, 2006 that long-grain US rice contains the LL601 trait. This announcement resulted to trade disruption and export of US rice, which were either stopped or testing requirements were placed on the US-grown rice. For details, see the story at: http://www.usarice.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=963:test-results-indicate-no-liberty-link-in-2009-us-rice-crop&catid=84:usarice-newsroom&Itemid=327
Plant scientist Roger Beachy has joined the Obama administration
to lead the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the new research funding arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Beachy, whose research led to the first transgenic crop, was previously the long-time head of the not-for-profit Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Emily Waltz talks to Beachy about his plans for the new agency.

Emily Waltz, Nature Biotechnology, Jan 2010,  http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n1/full/nbt0110-11.html

Official Named to New Position with a Portfolio to Improve Food Safety
- Gardner Harris, The New York Times, Jan 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, moving to address the nation's fractured food safety system, on Wednesday appointed Michael R. Taylor, a veteran food expert, as deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. The newly created position is the first to oversee all the agency's many food and nutrition programs.

MEXICO APPROVES IMPORTATION OF 8 GM VARIETIES
Mexico's Ministry of Health has issued authorizations for the importation of eight varieties of genetically modified (GM) maize (4), cotton (2), soybean (1) and alfalfa (1). Authorizations were issued to Dow Agrosciences, Monsanto, Syngenta, BayerCropScience and DuPont Pioneer on January 22, 2010. These varieties are for food and feed purposes but cannot be commercially planted.

For the original Spanish version of this news contact prensa@agrobio.org

Africa

The booklet captures some key developments in agricultural biotechnology in Africa. The document narrates notable scientific breakthroughs, political support, policy formulation, capacity building and awareness creation on agricultural biotechnology in Africa. It highlights activities in three African countries (South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt) that have commercialized biotech crops and are now experiencing socio economic benefits as well as improved environmental conservation.
STUDY ON THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DROUGHT TOLERANT CORN IN AFRICA
Tim Dalton, an international development specialist of the Kansas State Research and Extension, will be conducting studies to calculate the potential economic impacts of drought-tolerant corn and will estimate the distribution of those benefits in target African countries. The two-year research effort is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa will be included in calculating the potential impact on producers and consumers of maize developed through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA).

At http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/African_corn012510.aspx

Asia

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).
BIOTECH WORKSHOP ON SUSTAINABLE MODERN AGRICULTURE IN INDONESIA
The KTNA (National Outstanding Farmer and Fisherman Association) of Indonesia recently concluded a biotech workshop on the theme "Sustainable Modern Agriculture" in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. The workshop was conducted to build biotech knowledge of stakeholders especially farmers, government agencies, and media in accelerating biotech acceptance in Indonesia.
Genetic Engineering Accepted (by Philippine bishops)
- National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 27, 2009 Manila, Philippines
- http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Genetic+engineering+accepted.-a0214203748

The Philippine bishops came gradually to accept genetically modified genetically modified organisms as they studied whether to support the development of new strains of rice to solve a rice shortage in Asia, the head of the bishops' bioethics bioethics, in philosophy, a branch of ethics concerned with issues surrounding health care and the biological sciences. These issues include the morality of abortion, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants (see transplantation, medical). office said.

The church will back the introduction of new rice strains if these will help feed over l billion malnourished Asians and Africans and do not harm the environment, said Dominican Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi of Caceres.

The Philippines bishops' conference initially resisted acceptance of genetically modified organisms when the technology was "not yet so well defined," Legaspi said. Opposition moved through "a gradual evolution" toward acceptance as it became apparent that genetically modified organisms offer food safety and security as well as environmental sustainability.

The bishop's comments come as more than 700 scientists and agriculturalists discussed new rice strains at the Sixth International Rice Genetics Symposium in Manila Nov. 16-19.

The highly influential International Rice Research Institute, based in Laguna, Philippines, which for 50 years has used traditional plant breeding techniques to develop pest and disease resistance and increase crop yields, announced at the symposium that it would begin using genetic engineering.
BANGLADESH-INDIA AGREEMENT ON AGRI-BIOTECH EXCHANGE
Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Matia Choudhury and Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Power signed an agreement in Dhaka on 08 January 2010 to collaborate on advanced agricultural technology. Both countries will exchange technologies and scientists to build and improve capacity to develop GM and hybrid crop varieties to combat salinity, drought and submergence problems. For more news from Bangladesh, email Dr. Khondoker Nasiruddin of the Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Center at nasirbiotech@yahoo.com
STRESS RESISTANT POTATOES FOR SOUTHWEST ASIA
Potatoes with improved resistance to an array of abiotic stresses will soon benefit small-scale farmers in Soutwest Asia. The Peru-based International Potato Center (CIP), with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), has started a project to develop drought-tolerant potato varieties that can grow well in the region. The CIP expects that the project will boost potato production and benefit more than 200,000 farmers in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Bangladesh. Potato is a staple food and a major cash crop in these countries. However, productivity in the region is low. Long dry spells, soil salinity, and heat are major production constraints. The project will build upon and exploit genetic stocks, molecular tools and research methods  to identify the tolerance traits that farmers need. The researchers will also integrate geographic information systems (GIS) with statistical analysis of multilocation trial data to develop geo-referenced risk maps and growth models to project future conditions under climate change scenarios.

Read http://www.cipotato.org/pressroom/press_releases_detail.asp?cod=76 for the original story. For more details on the project, visit http://www.cipotato.org/pressroom/documents/gtz2009-11-en-factsheet-cip.pdf

Farmers Look to Biotechnology to Battle Climate Change Challenges
http://www.biospectrumasia.com/Content/311209OTH11693.asp

Singapore, Dec 31, 2009: Despite mounting challenges brought on by climate change, farmers around the world are increasingly being aided by modern agricultural practices, such as biotechnology. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), has released The Effects of Climate Change on US. Ecosystems.

China

CHINESE VICE MINISTER OF AGRIC MEETS WITH THE SYNGENTA GLOBAL SEEDS COO
Niu Dun, Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture, met with Davor Pisk, chief operating officer of Syngenta Global Seeds, on January 13, 2010 to exchange views on cooperation. Niu recommended that collaboration be fostered to carry out sustainable agriculture research and cooperation projects, extend research achievements, and improve expertise through trainings.

Pisk said that Syngenta is willing to continuously strengthen cooperation with China in enhancing agricultural human resource and extending advanced agricultural technology.

View the Ministry's press release at http://www.agri.gov.cn/xxlb/t20100113_1416046.htm
CHINA ADVOCATES USE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN AGRICULTURE
China is strengthening its use of new technologies, particularly plant and animal biotechnology, to modernize its agriculture. A report of the US Department of Agricultural Service discusses how China has "emerged as a pivotal force" in using biotech applications that provide a range of benefits to farmers, producers, and consumers. For the full report visit http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20publications/China%20Moves%20Forward%20in%20New%20Technologies_Beijing_China%20-%20Peoples%20Republic%20of_1-14-2010.pdf
CHINA LAUNCHES PROJECT ON CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) recently launched a five-year public welfare project on climate change impact on agricultural production and coping techniques. The scientists will do a comprehensive analysis of  characteristics of climate change impact based on the existing results of climate change research.  Read the original article at http://www.agri.gov.cn/xxlb/t20091222_1404424.htm
SCIENTISTS PINPOINT RICE GENES THAT DETERMINE RICE EATING AND COOKING QUALITY
Genes regulating networks that determine eating and cooking quality have been pinpointed by a research team led by Li Jiayang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA will help to develop rice varieties with better taste. The paper is available for subscribers at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/11/0912396106
Publish or perish in China
Published online 12 January 2010 | Nature 463, 142-143 (2010) | doi:10.1038/463142a

The pressure to rack up publications in high-impact journals could encourage misconduct, some say.

Jane Qiu

The latest in a string of high-profile academic fraud cases in China underscores the problems of an academic-evaluation system that places disproportionate emphasis on publications, critics say. Editors at the UK-based journal Acta Crystallographica Section E last month retracted 70 published crystal structures that they allege are fabrications by researchers at Jinggangshan University in Jiangxi province.

India

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on agricultural biotechnology, in his inaugural speech at the Indian Science Congress in Trivandrum on Jan 3, 2010.
"Developments in biotechnology present us the prospect of greatly improving yields in our major crops by increasing resistance to pests and also to moisture stress. BT Cotton has been well accepted in the country and has made a great difference to the production of cotton.

The technology of genetic modification is also being extended to food crops though this raises legitimate questions of safety. These must be given full weightage, with appropriate regulatory control based on strictly scientific criteria. Subject to these caveats, we should pursue all possible leads that biotechnology provides that might increase our food security as we go through climate related stress." http://www.biospectrumasia.com/Content/040110IND11702.asp?nl=1_182352_Jan4

Bt Brinjal - Ban or Boon?
G. Padmanaban, Current Science, Vol. 97, No. 12, 25 December 2009 1715
(G. Padmanaban is in the Department of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India e-mail: geepee@biochem.iisc.ernet.in)

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) cleared Bt brinjal for commercialization on 14 October 2009. The activists are up in arms terming the approval as a shame.

The Bt brinjal trials have been reviewed by two expert committees, EC-I (2006) and EC-II (2009). Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French scientist and President of the Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) and commissioned by Greenpeace, has contributed his bit on behalf of the activists by stating that Bt brinjal is potentially unsafe for human consumption.

But, if one were to go through carefully the points raised by Seralini1, it is in the nature of picking holes on the extensive environmental and food safety studies carried out by the developers of Bt brinjal since 2002. The comments range from describing the Bt gene used as an unknown chimeric toxin containing Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab, whose safety remains unsubstantiated, to the use of prohibited antibiotic resistance markers and significant alteration of blood chemistry in the experimental animals used.

Every parameter assessed from gene flow in non-target organisms to duration of the animal experimentation studies has been questioned, revealing a mindset to oppose anyway. It would be instructive to go through the assessment provided by the Expert Committee (ECII) 2, which has given a positive evaluation of the product, to each of the points raised by Seralini. First of all, the gene product is not an unknown toxin. It is 99.4% identical to that produced by cry1Ac gene and the 0.6% difference is due to replacement of one amino acid in the entire sequence, although amino acids 1 to 466 are derived from cry1Ab and 467-1178 are derived from cry1Ac.

The antibiotic resistance markers used, npt11 and aad genes, are poorly expressed in the plant and widely accepted in other countries including USA, EU, Australia, Philippines, etc. Many of the so-called adverse changes highlighted by Seralini are within normal variations seen in control animals. This is typical of biological systems and Seralini states that calculation of statistical significance is not possible, since the differences vary by 237% in a given case.

The EC-II report is exhaustive and covers every aspect of the trials carried out for the last seven years. More than 150 scientists have been involved in this trial and two dozen environmental and food safety studies have been carried out since 2002. After all, nobody, least of all scientists, would want to compromise on food safety. The government should also be guided by the fact that there is extensive international experience with the use of Bt genes since mid-1990s and enormous number of safety field trials and health-related safety studies have been conducted.

The EC-II report states that in India the brinjal crop has required 40 pesticide sprays in a season and in Bangladesh, brinjal crop was sprayed with pesticides 84 times in a span of 6-7 months! Bt brinjal has been developed by Mahyco (a private company) and UAS, Dharwad/TNAU, Coimbatore (Public Sector academic institutions) with other collaborators as well.

  1. Seralini, G.-E., Effects on health and environment of transgenic (or GM) Bt brinjal. Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, 2009.
  2. Report of the Expert Committee (EC-II) on Bt Brinjal Event EE-1, 2009; http://moef.nic.in/downloads/publicinformation/Report%20on%20Bt%20brinjal.pdf
  3. Gurian-Sherman, D., Failure to Yield, UCS Publications, Cambridge, MA, 2009.
  4. Sheridan, C., Natl. Biotechnol., 2009, 27, 588-589.
  5. Tabashnik, B. E., Unnithan, G. C., Crowder, D. W., Li, X. and Carriere, Y., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2009, 106, 11889-11894.
  6. Mendelson, M., Kough, J., Vaituzis, Z. and Matthews, K., Natl. Biotechnol., 2003, 21, 1003-1009.
  7. Karihaloo, J. L. and Kumar, P. A., Bt cotton in India - A status report, Asia- Pacific Consortium on Biotechnology, New Delhi, 2009, 2nd edn.
India - Bt Brinjal Controversy: Sharad Pawar Stands Firm
- Zeenews January 22, 2010 http://biz.zeenews.com/

New Delhi: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Friday stood firm in his resolve to go ahead with commercially using BT Brinjal. Pawar told the media that initially there maybe constraints but in the long run it will only prove to be an advantage for India.

Australia

WA GOVERNMENT OKS GM CANOLA
Genetically modified (GM) canola got the thumbs up for cultivation in Western Australia (WA). The State Government announced in a press release that Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman approved its cultivation based on an exemption order under the Genetically Modified Crops Free Areas Act 2003. For the government press release visit http://www.afaa.com.au/news/news_pdf_076_WA_Government_GM_canola_decision.pdf
UA PLANS LIMITED RELEASE OF GM BARLEY AND WHEAT IN AUSTRALIA
The University of Adelaide has submitted an application to the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) for a limited and controlled release of barley and wheat plant genetically modified (GM) for abiotic stress tolerance. The GM lines exhibit different traits, including salinity, drought and frost tolerance, tolerance to low phosphorus, nitrogen use efficiency and enhanced zinc uptake. If approved, the release will take place at three sites in South Australia and Western Australia on a maximum total area of 0.75 ha per year over five years from June 2010 to December 2015. No plant materials from the GM wheat and barley would be used for human food or animal feed.

The OGTR now seeks comment on the application. The agency is currently preparing a comprehensive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP).

For more information on the application, visit http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir102

News in Science

NON-TARGET ARTHROPODS BARELY AFFECTED BY GM MAIZE
Researchers from Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Hungary have developed a mathematical model for calculating the risk posed by genetically modified maize to non-target arthropods. The researchers selected two protected butterfly species (Inachis io and Vanessa atalanta) and the diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella) for model calculation. Eleven representative European regions growing the genetically modified maize Mon810 were selected to make the model as realistic as possible.

The impacts on butterflies and moths calculated using the model were very small. The maximum mortality rate calculated for peacock and admiral butterflies in all regions was less than one in 1572 individuals. For the diamond-back moth the maximum mortality rate was one in 392. The average mortality rate for all regions was one in 5000 for the two butterfly species, and one in 4367 for the diamond-back moth.

In the paper published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers wrote: "Our results suggest that previous estimates (by the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA).were overly cautious and that mortality and sublethality are about four times less than they estimated."

Download the paper at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.2091

Read the original story at http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/733.docu.html
Gender differences in brain activity
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_01_07_en.html&item=&artid=14433

Scientists at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Poland have discovered that brain patterns differ in men and women following positive and negative stimuli. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in November.

Soybean sequenced
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7278/edsumm/e100114-02.html

Soybean (Glycine max) is an important commercial crop providing both protein and oil, and its symbiotic relationship to nitrogen-fixing bacteria makes it a profitable crop in rotation systems. Its genome has now been sequenced: it is the first legume and at 1.1 gigabases, the largest plant genome to be sequenced by whole-genome shotgun techniques. Soybean has a colourful genetic past; genome duplications occurred at 59 and 13 million years ago, resulting in a highly duplicated genome with nearly 75% of the genes present in multiple copies. An accurate soybean genome sequence should accelerate the creation of improved soybean varieties.

ARTICLE: Genome sequence of the palaeopolyploid soybean

Jeremy Schmutz, Steven B. Cannon, Jessica Schlueter, Jianxin Ma, Therese Mitros, William Nelson, David L. Hyten, Qijian Song, Jay J. Thelen, Jianlin Cheng, Dong Xu, Uffe Hellsten, Gregory D. May, Yeisoo Yu, Tetsuya Sakurai, Taishi Umezawa, Madan K. Bhattacharyya, Devinder Sandhu, Babu Valliyodan, Erika Lindquist, Myron Peto, David Grant, Shengqiang Shu, David Goodstein, Kerrie Barry, Montona Futrell-Griggs, Brian Abernathy, Jianchang Du, Zhixi Tian, Liucun Zhu, Navdeep Gill, Trupti Joshi, Marc Libault, Anand Sethuraman, Xue-Cheng Zhang, Kazuo Shinozaki, Henry T. Nguyen, Rod A. Wing, Perry Cregan, James Specht, Jane Grimwood, Dan Rokhsar, Gary Stacey, Randy C. Shoemaker & Scott A. Jackson
doi:10.1038/nature08670
SCIENTISTS PRODUCE GENOME SEQUENCE OF THE WOODLAND STRAWBERRY
An international team of researchers, including scientists from the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), announced that they have sequenced the genome of Fragaria vesca, commonly known as woodland strawberry. A relative of peach, cherry and cultivated strawberry F. vesca has many traits that make it an attractive model system for functional genomics studies. Read the original story at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100111.htm
Watering plants midday triggers sunburn
Gardeners have long contended that the watering of plants and flowers at high noon only leads to sunburn. Now new research from a joint Hungarian-German study validates their position. Published in the journal New Phytologist, the results of the study into sunlit water droplets sheds light on a question that has perplexed many scientists. http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_01_25_en.html&item=&artid=14673
HELPFUL YEAST BATTLES FOOD-CONTAMINATING AFLATOXIN
Growth of the fungi-causing aflatoxins belonging to the genus Aspergillus such as Aspergillus flavus was found recently to be controlled by yet another fungi, a yeast called Pichia anomata. Laboratory and field tests conduced by plant physiologist Sui-Sheng Hua at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Albany, California showed that the yeast competes with Aspergillus successfully for nutrients and space.

Spraying the trees of California pistachios reduced A. flavus incidence by up to 97 percent. The yeast can also be effective in protecting other crops from other species of microbes such as Botrytis cineria that causes gray mold of table grapes.

The story can be viewed at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261
SILENCING A GIBBERELLIN-DEACTIVATING ENZYME ENHANCES PLANT GROWTH
Gibberellins (GA) are phytohormones that play important roles in key developmental processes such as stem elongation, cell division, seed germination and flowering. Biosynthetic inhibitors of gibberellin are widely used to enhance crop growth. Enhancing crop growth is one of the major objectives of the fiber, pulp, wood and biomass product industries. A team of researchers from the Tel Aviv University in Israel showed how silencing an enzyme that deactivates gibberellin in tobacco model plants results in a dramatic improvement of their growth characteristics. Details of their study appear in a paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal. Download the paper at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00480.x
The Plant That Doesn't Feel the Cold
- John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK January 10, 2010   http://www.jic.ac.uk/

Scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, have discovered that plants have a built-in thermometer that they use to control their development. Plants can sense differences of just 1°C. Vinod Kumar and Phil Wigge at the John Innes Centre, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

A special version of a histone protein is responsible. When this specialised histone is no longer incorporated into DNA, plants express all their genes behave as if they are at a high temperature, even when it is cold. The histone variant works as a thermometer by binding to the plant's DNA more tightly at lower temperatures, blocking the gene from being switched on.  As the temperature increases, the histone loses its grip and starts to drop off the DNA, allowing the gene to be switched on. The temperature sensing histone variant was found to control a gene that has helped some plant species adapt to climate change by rapidly accelerating their flowering.  Species that do not adjust their flowering time are going locally extinct at a high rate. Plants must continually adapt to their environment as they are unable to move around, and understanding how plants use temperature sensing will enable scientists to examine how different species will respond to further increases in global temperatures. (Publisher in Cell.)
British researchers develop GM potato
12 January 2010 | By William Surman
http://www.farmersguardian.com/news/arable/british-researchers-develop-gm-potato/29742.article

A TRIAL to develop genetically modified potatoes that would save British growers more than Ł40 million a year has been successful, initial results have revealed.

Researchers at Leeds University said the trial to develop cyst nematode resistant potatoes had made ‘great progress’ despite attempts from activists to destroy it.

Dr. Peter Urwin, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of But the Soil Association, the organic lobbyists, said the Government had no need to pursue GM technology.
Alanine aminotransferase and nitrogen-use efficiency.
Matt Ridley, The Economist, The World in 2010 print edition, Nov 13, 2009
http://www.economist.com/

Plants with "over-expressed" version of the gene from a barley florished in the medium withlow nitrogen suply. In experimental plots the plants often need less than half as much nitrogen to achieve the same yield-or get 25% more yield for the same nitrogen.

A company Arcadia Biosciences in Davis, California, acquired the licence to use the gene and signed agreements with other firms that are now testing it in rice in China, wheat in Australia and many other crops.
FUTURAGENE PLC GRANTED ADDITIONAL CELL WALL PATENT IN JAPAN
A new Japanese patent has been granted to the FuturaGene PLC, a leader in plant genetic research and development for global forestry, biofuels and agricultural markets. The patent covers transgenic plants expressing cell wall modifying proteins that result in higher biomass, faster growth rate, higher cellulose content, higher amenability for digestion by ruminants, or increased resistance to heat, biodegradation or pests. See the press release at http://www.futuragene.com/Additional%20Japanese%20Patent%20Granted.pdf
RESEARCH REVEALS RAPID MUTATION RATE OF PLANT GENOMES
Using Arabidopsis thaliana, scientists revealed that in plants, mutations occur which could change the plants genome after sometime. The researchers headed by Dr. Detlef Weigel of Max Planck Insitute for Developmental Biology in Germany and Prof. Michael Lynch of Indiana University studied the genetic changes in five varieties of Arabidopsis for over 30 generations. Results showed that over several years, 20 DNA building blocks had mutated in each of the 5 varieties of Arabidopsis. "The probability that any letter of the genome changes in a single generation is thus about 1 in 140 million" Prof. Lynch said.

Results showed that in Arabidopsis seedling on average, there is one new mutation in each of the two new copies of the genome that it inherits. In Arabidopsis, this is a fast mutation rate considering that the plant produces thousands of seeds in one generation. The results of the study will allow scientists to better calculate diversity and speciation of genomes, would provide clues on the better understanding of how plants become resistant to herbicides and for plant breeders to find mutations to increase crop yield and improve its resistance.

For details, see the story at: http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=FP6_NEWS&ACTION=D&DOC=2&CAT=NEWS&QUERY=01260c7ce700:905b:5af061ae&RCN=31626
Recombination: The gene that hits the hot spot
Nature Reviews Genetics 11, 92 (1 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrg2744

Sites of meiotic recombination are highly localized on eukaryotic genomes, but the reason for this remains puzzling. Three papers now identify a histone methyltransferase as a key controller of crossover 'hot spots': a finding that has implications for the molecular control of recombination and its evolution.

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