News in March 2010
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2010-04-01

Austria Withdraws Study on the Long-Term Consequences of GM Maize

http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/499.docu.html
GMO Compass, March 26, 2010

Austria has withdrawn a study on long-term feeding trials with mice that was published in November 2008. The study had caused quite a public stir since some of the mice that were fed with genetically modified maize gave birth to fewer offspring. The media and gene technology critics had interpreted the result as evidence of a reduced fertility caused by GM maize.

The Austrian government had already announced in a meeting of the 'Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health' at the EU commission in October 2009 that the scientists commissioned to do the study had not managed to present a 'satisfactory statistical evaluation' of the data. In addition, the Austrian Ministries that had commissioned the study no longer expected to receive such an evaluation.

Almost a year before, the committee had discussed the then newly published study and had come to the conclusion that the data did not allow any inferences to be drawn concerning the investigated GM maize - a cross between the maize lines NK603 and MON810. At that time, Austria had agreed to reappraise the statistical evaluation of the data.

The study, carried out by a working group of the University of Vienna under the leadership of Prof. Jürgen Zentek (now at the TU Berlin), was presented at a meeting in Vienna in November 2008. At the same time the first press releases appeared: "Consumption of GM maize reduces fertility" wrote Greenpeace and demanded that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) should be closed because of incompetence and that all approved genetically modified plants should be removed from the market. The news service Glocialist going a step further wrote "GM maize causes impotence". Austrian politicians of all parties regarded their 'enormous concern' about gene technology in agriculture as confirmed.

Zentek and his coworkers had fed their experimental mice a diet that comprised of one third GM maize from the NK603?~MON810 cross. A control group had received conventional maize. In another experiment mice were fed over four generations with both diets. In the evaluation of the long-term study published at that time, the number of offspring in the third and fourth litters were less than for the control group fed with conventional feed. Although Zentek warned about hasty generalisations, since then the study has been consistently cited by gene technology critical groups as evidence for health risks through genetically modified food plants.

Subsequently, Austria introduced the study into the consultation at the EU level. It was, according to a government representative speaking to the Standing Committee on 16 December 2008, "Part of comprehensive efforts of the Austrian Government regarding the safety of GM plants". After the discussion, it was observed in the protocol of the "Consensus between Member States" meeting that "the study did not answer the question of safety of the GM maize NK603?~MON810. The Austrian authorities should consider whether they could provide EFSA and the Member States with the raw data."

Previously both EFSA and some national authorities had examined the results of the feeding study and had come to the conclusion that no inferences could be drawn from the report since the data were incomplete and contradictory. In addition, important information necessary for a scientific evaluation of the study was missing.

Despite their acceptance at that time, the Austrian government was apparently not able to provide either these data or a statistically correct evaluation.

Also Does GM maize cause impotence?  - http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/671.docu.html

General - Global

ISAAA'S ANNUAL GLOBAL STATUS REPORT LAUNCHED IN BEIJING, CHINA
The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops for 2009 was recently launched in Beijing, China, which was dedicated to the late Nobel Peace Laureate Norman Borlaug and the first founding patron of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Dr. Clive James, author of the Report and ISAAA chair,  highlighted the increase of 7% or 9 million hectares of biotech crops grown in 2009 over 2008. An increase of 14 million small and large farmers in 25 countries was also recorded to be planted in 134 million hectares. Costa Rica joined the 16 developing and 9 developed countries which are planting biotech crops. He stressed the importance of biotech crops in strategies to alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition. http://www.isaaa.org
NO TECHNICAL IMPEDIMENTS TO BIOTECH RICE
Recombinant DNA technology and methods for generating biotech rice are available thus assuring that there are no technical impediments to the widespread adoption of biotech rice by rice-growing countries. Dr. John Bennett, honorary professor of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia, predicts that there will be further increases in the efficiency of biotech rice production with the introduction of (1) floral spray inoculation of Agrobacterium to avoid tissues culture; (2) homologous recombination to insert genes in a targeted rather than random manner, and (3) plastome transformation to permit alteration of key photosynthetic genes in the chloroplast.  http://www.isaaa.org
NEW INITIATIVE WILL HARNESS BIOTECH TO IMPROVE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES' BREEDING EFFICIENCY
The Generation Challenge Program (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched a new global initiative that aims to increase crop breeding efficiency in developing countries. Dubbed as the Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP), the initiative will be a one-stop shop for information, analytical tools and related services to design and efficiently conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments.

"The five-year USD 12 Million project would revolutionize crop breeding and provide a level playing field allowing developing countries to take advantage of advanced plant breeding technology to meet the looming challenge in food security," says Dave Bergvinson, Program Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The original story is available at http://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/news-releases/icrisat-pr-2010-media3.htm
OECD Meeting of Ministers of Agriculture
25-26 February 2010 Ministers of Agriculture from OECD’s 30 member countries and those from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Estonia, Indonesia Israel, Slovenia, the Russian Federation, South Africa and Romania and representatives from the EU, the FAO and the WTO met in Paris during a day and a half around the theme “Food and Agricultural Policies for a Sustainable Future; Responding to Global Challenges and Opportunities”. This was the first time in 12 years that Ministers for Agriculture had met at the OECD. The meeting was chaired by Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich of Austria and Minister David Carter of New Zealand. Just prior to the meeting the Co-Chairs met with BIAC (the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD) and IFAP (the International Federation of Agricultural Producers) for an exchange of views about the issues to be discussed during the meeting.
Building Biosafety Capacities - FAO's Experience and Outlook
An overview of the experience gained from FAO capacity building projects in agricultural biotechnology and biosafety
FAO, 2009. NRR, I1033/E. http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1033e/i1033e.pdf
IFPRI RESEARCH ON PRO-POOR BIOTECH AND BIOSAFETY
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has put on its priority list the assessment of socio-economic opportunities and risks of agricultural biotechnology for smallholder farming systems and consumers, as well as biosafety policy issues. In Pro-Poor Biotechnology and Biosafety Research in Partnership with Developing Countries  IFPRI discusses its work in agricultural biotechnology, namely: Evaluating the economic impact and potential of GM crops; Strengthening biosafety regulations and improving innovative capacity; and Promoting pro-poor biotechnology research through public-private partnerships.

IFPRI is currently doing research to explore enabling conditions to increase farmers' access to well adapted technologies; analyze issues around transferring genetic innovations to the poor in the c ontext of intellectual property rights; and the potential implications of poor farmers of accessing technologies and benefirt sharing.

Download a PDF copy of the paper at http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/biotechsafetybro.pdf
KEY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES FACING THE ARAB REGION
In a recent meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) reports important strategies that will address climate change and sustainable employment in the Arab region. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "This assessment has been a truly collaborative one outlining the progress but also the realities facing this diverse but also dynamic region where if policies and resources are better focused could be a beacon of sustainable, Green Economic, development for millions of people".

Books & Articles

National plant breeding programmes
GIPB is pleased to announce that the presentation of national plant breeding programmes is on-line for 35 countries.

http://km.fao.org/gipb/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=43&Itemid=389

Developing Nations to Adopt GM Crops Faster
Banikinkar Pattanayak, Wall Street Journal,  March 10, 2010 http://Online.wsj.com/

New Delhi -- Developing countries led by China and Brazil will overtake rich nations in adopting genetically modified crops over the next two-three years, as they strive to raise yields to meet demand from their growing population, a top farm scientist said.

Currently, 46% of the land under genetically modified crops is in developing countries, but their share will increase to more than half in two-three years, China, Brazil, India, Argentina and South Africa are the big five that will drive rise in Bt crop areas as they try to improve yield when arable land growth is stagnant.

New Report: Biotech Boosts Environment
John Walter, Agriculture Online, March 4, 2010

The report, developed by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), examines the impact of biotechnology on the ability of farmers to improve their environmental performance. The CTIC report shows that herbicide-tolerant soybeans and cotton helped cut U.S. herbicide use by 47.4 million pounds of active ingredient in 2007, for example. Insecticide-resistant cotton and corn varieties led to reduced applications of insecticides in that year by 8.67 million pounds of active ingredient.

Conservation tillage and no-till are also credited with improving soil quality and enhancing wildlife habitat. Other benefits of reduced tillage brought about by the biotech trend include lower fuel consumption and reduced greenhouse emissions.
Is it Proper for China to Grow GM Rice Now? - Evidence Versus Raw Emotion
Robert Paarlberg, China Daily, March 15, 2010 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/

Political misgivings about genetically engineered foods first emerged in Europe when the first shipments of genetically engineered soybeans reached there from the United States in 1996.

Fifteen years have now passed and there is still no documented evidence of any new harm from genetically engineered food, but European activist groups (led by Greenpeace International, from Amsterdam) continue to campaign against the technology, including now in China.

What these activists do not admit is that Europe's top scientists have long since found today's genetically engineered foods to be just as safe as conventional foods. This is also the official position of the International Council for Science (ICSU), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, World Health Organization and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

It is revealing that while Europeans generally do not like the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, they have no objection to its use in medicine. They don't like genetic engineering in food because they are already well fed (indeed, overfed) without the technology. It is Europe's lack of a need for this technology, not the presence of any new risk, which has been behind the protests.

China should make a decision on this technology based on the needs of its farmers and consumers. Critics wrongly assert that genetically engineered crops are more likely than conventional crops to result in pesticide-resistant insects or invasive super-weeds, an assertion rejected authoritatively by the ICSU.
The History and Future of GM Potatoes
Paul van Eijck, PotatoPro, March 10, 2010 http://www.potatopro.com/
MOST DESIRED PLANT IMPROVEMENTS FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY
Biotechnology and Agricultural Development - Transgenic Cotton, Rural Institutions and Resource-poor Farmers
New Book Edited by Rob Tripp, Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-54384-2, $45.95, 2009, Pages: 304
http://www.routledgeeconomics.com/books/Biotechnology-and-Agricultural-Development-isbn9780415543842

This book addresses the continuing controversy over the potential impact of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries.

Gene Flow Between Crops and their Wild Relativem
New Book by Meike S. Andersson and M. Carmen de Vicente, Johns Hopkins University Press; Funded by GTZ and collaboration with CIAT and Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia) http://www.bioversityinternational.org

The centres of origin and diversity of many crop species are located in developing countries. Many of these areas are not only under the pressure of environmental threats, but they are also affected by agriculture, and in particular by the way it is practiced.

ONLINE SURVEY ON GENE TECHNOLOGY
An on-line survey is being carried out by ORIMA Research Pty Ltd on behalf of Australia's Gene Technology Ethics & Community Consultative Committee (GTECCC). GTECCC is reviewing the National Framework for the Development of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology and the survey will enable stakeholders to contribute to the review process.

Specific organizations have been invited directly to participate in the survey, but the survey can be undertaken by any interested party.

The survey website is at https://www.orima.com.au/ogtr/general/registration.php

Genetic Roulette Jefffrey Smith
Jeffrey Smith of Fairfield, Iowa, was once nearly as well known for his swing-dancing lessons as his “expertise” in biotech agriculture. Still, Smith, who has also enjoyed longtime ties to Fairfield’s Maharishi religious group and the state’s Natural Law political party, travels the world reading excerpts from his two self-published books on genetic engineering.

Genetic Roulette is Jeffrey Smith’s second book in which he makes unsubstantiated claims against biotechnology. In it, he details 65 separate claims that the technology causes harm in a variety of ways. On these pages each of those claims – addressed in the same eight “sections” that correspond directly with the book – are stacked up against peer-reviewed science. Genetic Roulette is Jeffrey Smith's second book in which he makes unsubstantiated claims against biotechnology. In it, he details 65 separate claims that the technology causes harm in a variety of ways. On these pages each of those claims - addressed in the same eight "sections" that correspond directly with the book - are stacked up against peer-reviewed science.

Te misinformation of thius book is thoroughly analyzed by the Academics Review, an association of academic professors, researchers, teachers and credentialed authors who are committed to the unsurpassed value of the peer review in establishing sound science. They stand against falsehoods, half-baked assertions and theories or claims not subjected to this kind of rigorous review. Researchers, teachers, and other credentialed professionals in a range of scientific fields are welcome to apply to join Academics Review as participating members.b More information available at: http://academicsreview.org/

Contacts:Prof. Bruce Chassy, University of Illinois, chassy.ar@gmail.com - 217-766-2750.

See http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/

Events

AgriGenomics World Congress
July 8-9, 2010; Brussels
http://www.selectbiosciences.com/conferences/AGWC2010/index.aspx

AgriGenomics is the detailed study of the genetic makeup of plants and how all the genes work together to produce the crop. Recently there has been great interest in genetically engineering plants to optimize yields and their use in bio-fuels. There is also focus on the alteration of certain genes to increase plant resistance towards disease and infection. So, now is a good time for scientists, business people, bio-ethicists and patent experts from around the globe to come together and catch up with the latest developments in this fast expanding field.

Food Security Expo 2010
Kuwait, April 11-12, 2010
http://www.warahglobal.com/food/about_conf.html

The Idea of Food Security Conference & Exhibition is generated to be a meeting for the public and private sectors and those who search for agricultural investment opportunities to identify the current conditions and anticipate the future capabilities in view of the set plans, the bodies executing them, the time period and the allocated budgets.

The Food Security Expo 2010 will be held under the Auspices of H.E. The Public Work and Municipality Minister Dr. Fadhel Safar, with Master Food Solution as the Main Sponsor.

It will also highlight modern technologies that can be implemented in the State of Kuwait to boost the Food and Agricultural Sector.

CROP BIO-BREEDING INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT IN BEIJING
The Crop Bio-breeding Industry Development Summit cosponsored by the Chinese Society of Biotechnology (CSBT) and Chinese Society of Agricultural Biotechnology (CSABT) was held on February 25 in Beijing, China. More than 150 officers and experts from Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences ( CAAS), Peking University, China Agricultural University and relevant bio-corporations participated in this conference. For more information on crop biotech developments in China, contact Prof. Zhang Hongxiang of the China Biotechnology Information Center at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn
Tomorrow's Giants
July 1, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX, UK Visit www.nature.com/natureconferences/tomorrowsgiants to apply.

12th World Congress of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology (IAPB)
June 6-11, 2010, at the America's Center in downtown, St. Louis, Missouri, is now available online at http://www.iapb2010.org. Reservations to attend the Congress also can be made through the Website.

The full schedule of approximately 60 plenary and keynote lectures to be presented

“Recent Patents on Biomedical Engineering (BIOMENG)”
was launched in January 2008. This journal publishes review articles written by experts on recent patents in the field of Biomedical Engineering. Please visit the journal‘s website at http://www.biomeng.org/ for the Editorial Board, sample issue, abstracts of recent issues and other details.
Recent Patents on Biomedical Engineering (BIOMENG)
is indexed in Chemical Abstracts, Genamics JournalSeek, MediaFinder®-Standard Periodicals, Compendex, EMBiology.
Plant Genetics, Genomics, and Biotechnology
June 07-10, 2010, Novosibirsk, Russia
http://www.bionet.nsc.ru/plant-gen2010/Index-Engl.html

Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences organizes the International Conference  hosting the meeting.  The Conference plans to discuss the following issues:

(1) Plant genome sequencing in the 21st century;
(2) Genetics and breeding in a changing environment;
(3) Chromosome biotechnology;
(4) Genome evolution; and
(5) Genomics towards systems biology

ABIC 2010: Bridging Biology and Business
September 12 - 15, 2010, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada http://www.abic.ca/abic2010/

The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) inspires and encourages the research, development and commercialization of new biotechnologies to improve human health, create a sustainable food supply and foster new energy sources for all nations, including the developing world. Delegates come to network, learn and discuss issues of relevance, particularly for agricultural biotech policy and research enterprises for the good of the whole planet. The theme of ABIC 2010 is Bridging Biology and Business, with three streams: Energy, Health and Sustainability.

BIOTECHNICA 2010
5. - 7. October 2010  Hannover.

For more information visit http://www.biotechnica.de/pressservice

Report of the FAO International Technical Conference ABDC-10
Guadalajara, Mexico
FAO-BiotechNews, 24-3-2010 http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp

Full ABDC-10/REPORTat http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/backdocs/en/

The report is now available of the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010. A major objective of the Conference was to take stock of the application of biotechnologies across the different food and agricultural sectors in developing countries, in order to learn from the past and to identify options for the future to face the challenges of food insecurity, climate change and natural resource degradation.

Europe - EU

Commission gives green light to genetically-modified potato
The EU executive authorised the cultivation in the EU of Amflora, a genetically-modified potato developed by German chemical company BASF.

Responsible innovation will be my guiding principle when dealing with innovative technologies," said Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli.

After an extensive and thorough review of five pending GM files, it had become clear that there were no new scientific issues that merited further assessment, as those concerning safety had been fully addressed, the commissioner added.

The decision was based on a series of favourable safety assessments carried out over the years by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EU executive also launched a reflection group on how to combine a European authorisation system with giving member states the freedom to decide on GMO cultivation.

The decision includes strict cultivation conditions to prevent GM potatoes from remaining in the fields after harvest and to ensure that Amflora's seeds are not inadvertently disseminated into the wider environment, the Commission explained, in a bid to allay cross-contamination fears. The EU executive also approved three genetically-modified maize types made by US biotech firm Monsanto for food and feed uses and import and processing in the European Union. The EU executive said it plans to announce proposals by summer that would, if approved, allow governments to decide whether genetically modified crops can be grown within their borders.

German Green MEP Martin Häusling, a member of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, commented: "I am shocked that Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner John Dalli has only needed weeks in his new position to show such flagrant support for industry interests ahead of his own portfolio. His decision to authorise the Amflora potato variety flies in the face of the 70% of consumers who are against GM food, as well as the anti-GM position of the European Parliament."

"There are serious concerns about an Amflora gene that is resistant to antibiotics, including one recognised by the World Health Organisation and others essential to medicine, for example in the treatment of tuberculosis. Serious doubts remain on possible consequences for human health and the environment. Since certain non-GM varieties have already proved to have the same characteristics designed in Amflora, I can only conclude that its authorisation is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous," he said.

The chairman of the European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, Joseph Daul MEP, described the decision as "a positive step which was long overdue".

"The Commission took a decision based on scientific advice and sets an important signal for the innovation and use of new technologies in European agriculture. This will strengthen the competitiveness of European agriculture as well as the position of Europe  as a centre of knowledge and innovation," he said.

It is important, however, to apply the principle of subsidiarity, Daul underlined.

"European farmers need the same access to modern technologies as farmers in other regions of the world," he continued.

"Biotechnology must be the key technology for a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector in Europe, creating jobs in agriculture as well as in research and development. Europe has to retain its leading role in biotechnology," Daul concluded.

The ground-breaking decision was not welcomed by environmental groups, who said it ignored risks posed by the crop to human and animal health, as well as to the environment.

"It is shocking that one of the Commission's first official acts is to authorise a GM crop that puts the environment and public health at risk," Greenpeace EU's agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said in a statement.

"If this new potato is widely grown in the European Union, organic and conventional farmers and food processors will have to face even higher costs keeping food production chains free from GMOs", warned Bavo van den Idsert, vice-president of IFOAM, which represents organic farmers in Europe.

Approval of genetically-modified crops in the European Union has long been a subject of controversy, dividing EU member states as many are openly hostile to so-called 'Frankenstein foods'.

Heike Moldenhauer, GMO spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "This is a bad day for European citizens and the environment. The new commissioner, whose job is to protect consumers, has in one of his first decisions ignored public opinion and safety concerns to please the world's biggest chemical company. This decision puts profit before people or the environment and will do little to increase public confidence in the Brussels bureaucracy."

"There are clear health concerns surrounding this GM potato. The antibiotics affected by Amflora are vital tools against illness and despite growing resistance to these life saving drugs, industry has added them to potatoes with no guarantees that they will not get into the food chain. This is nothing less then a crass decision that puts the public at risk," Moldenhauer added.

"We feel encouraged by this decisive regulatory approach," said Willy De Greef, EuropaBio's secretary- general. "It offers the necessary predictability to industry and also to the general public regarding the development of a technology that has much to offer to Europeans as a whole."

"Amongst the decisions announced today was the first approval of a GM crop for cultivation in Europe since 1998. There are a further 17 products in the approval process for cultivation and 44 products awaiting authorisation for food and feed as well as for import and processing in the EU," explained De Greef.

"However, today's approvals represent a step in the right direction and a return to science-based decision-making. This is essential if European farmers are to be given the freedom to choose whether or not to cultivate innovative GM crops, and if consumers are to be given the possibility to choose safe and beneficial GM products," he concluded.

CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR TRANSGENICS IN EUROPE
Why are their very few genetically modified (GM) crops approved for commercialization in Europe? How can their be greater public confidence in GM crops? The journal Nature answers these questions in the news article A new dawn for transgenic crops in Europe.

A major insight is that the European Union-wide system for approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not working. Getting crops approved require a 'qualified' majority of the 27 member states, hence opposition by a few countries can block the introduction of a crop across the entire bloc. If a decision is not approved by the European Council a decision rests on the European Commission. However, despite the commission's attempt to force France, Greece, Austria and Hungary to lift bans on growing MON 810 maize, they could not get the majority vote of member states needed. More recently, countries such as Austria and Italy, said they will defy the commission and refuse to allow a crop like Amflora potatoes to be planted by farmers.

Nevertheless the EC is expected to continue to approve GMOs across the EU based on scientific advice of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and then let member states decide whether to grow the crops or not. This approach could encourage more approvals and allow countries that wish to grow GMOs to do so. Other experts believe that more publicly funded research on GMOs would lead to greater public confidence in risk assessments, which are currently heavily dependent on industry studies. The original article is available at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100309/full/news.2010.112.html

European Union - Green light for GM Maize
http://www.foodbizdaily.com

The European Commission has authorised the use of three GM maize products for food and feed, along with the growth of the Amflora GM potato for industrial use and feed.

Zero Tolerance' of GM: New problems with the Import of Feed?
http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/494.docu.html

The European feed industry once again has warned of problems with the import of feed in the case that the EU upholds its policy of 'zero tolerance' for unapproved genetically modified (GM) plants. John Dalli, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, is expected to suggest new solutions "in a matter of weeks".

"This spring, new genetically modified plants will be sown in North and South America. It's unlikely that they will be approved for import to the EU by harvest time in October," stated Klaus-Dieter Schumacher in a statement to the news agency Reuters as speaker for EU Grain and Oilseeds traders' association (Coceral). "This may lead to a similarly difficult situation to the past autumn." According to Mr Schumacher, a solution to the problem is "mored urgent than ever."

Currently, a 'zero-tolerance' policy is maintained in the EU towards low-level traces of unapproved GM plants. Last autumn, traces of such GM maize lines repeatedly were found in feed imports from the USA. Such shipments may not enter the EU. In the meanwhile, the European Commission has issued import approval for the GM maize lines in question.

The EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection has announced his intention within weeks to postulate solutions for the problem of minimal GM admixtures. It is expected that the Commission will issue 'technical guidelines' with regard, for example, to standardised analysis procedures and sampling for GM organisms (GMO).

Such a technical solution appears more readily realisable than protracted and politically controversial changes in the existing European regulations for gene technology. A threshold value for admixtures of unapproved GM plants, as repeatedly has been demanded by representatives of the agriculture and feed industries, nonetheless may be established by legislative means only.

In their approach to green gene technology, the major agricultural exporter countries in North and South America and their recipient markets in Europe are developing increasingly different manners. Approval and the commercial use of newly-developed GM plants are carried out significantly faster on the other side of the Atlantic than in gene-technology-sceptic Europe. The problem of minimal admixtures GMO is an expression of this widening gap.

In the USA, SmartStax maize will debut on the market in 2010. The maize produces six different Bt proteins and resists thereby a variety of pests. In addition, the maize is tolerant of two active substances used to combat weeds. Monsanto and Dow Agro Science, joint developers of the SmartStax maize, calculate a field area of at least 1.6 million hectares already in this year. An application has been submitted for the approval of import of SmartStax products to the EU. However, a decision is not in sight.

Zero Sense In European Approach to GM
Robert Wager  &  Alan McHughen, EMBO Reports,(19 March 2010), doi:10.1038/embor.2010.33
http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/embor201033.pdf

European Union (EU) policies regarding genetically modified (GM) crops and food have increasingly isolated its member states from much of the rest of the world in this regard over the past decade. The discussion in European countries over whether to grow and eat GM crops and food has stalled plant research, while the rest of the world has been growing and using an increasing number of GM pest- or herbicide-resistant plants.

For reprint - write to Prof. Robert Wager <Robert.Wager@viu.ca>

BARROSO DEFENDS TRANSGENICS AND EFSA SCIENTISTS
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, defended in Parliament the approval of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) based on the scientific evidence provided to him by the experts of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EU president expressed his opinion when he was criticized by the Green group on the recent approval for the cultivation of the GM potato Amflora. "They have a very strong position against any transgenic, and it is their right, but when there is no scientific evidence of risks to public health or the environment, the EC is bound to approve based on scientific evidence." He further explained that the EU Parliament makes decisions based on independent scientific reports they receive.

For details, see the story in Portuguese at http://fundacion-antama.org/barroso-defiende-los-transgenicos-y-los-controles-cientificos-de-la-efsa/

EFSA Launches Public Consultation on Guidance for Environmental Risk Assessment of GM Plants
European Food Safety Authority [EFSA], March 5 2010: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/gmo100305.htm
EU and Argentina Settle WTO Case on Genetically Modified Organisms
www.europa.eu, March 19, 2010

The European Union and Argentina have today signed in Buenos Aires a final settlement of the WTO dispute that Argentina brought against the EU in May 2003 regarding the application of its legislation on biotech products. The mutually agreed solution provides for the establishment of a regular dialogue on issues of mutual interest on biotechnology applied to agriculture. The EU and Argentina will notify this settlement to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body as a mutually agreed solution. A settlement of the WTO dispute that Canada brought against the EU regarding the same issue was already reached on 15 July 2009.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: "This is the second settlement regarding the WTO case on GMOs that is reached. This is certainly a recognition by Canada and Argentina as much as the EU that the best approach to this complex issue is a regular dialogue. I hope the United States, the only remaining WTO complainant in this dispute, will soon come to the same conclusion."

Commission steps up biomass use
Nearly € 80 million for biorefinery research. A major research initiative of the European Commission about the sustainable use of biomass has started today. Researchers and industry are going to develop new ways to convert biological feedstock into energy and valuable material using biorefinery technology. The Commission will fund the programme with € 52 million for 4 years. 81 partners from universities, research institutes and industry in 20 countries will invest an additional € 28 million. http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&lg=en&year=2010&na=na-010310

An EU-funded team of researchers has discovered that grass can be used to produce energy that doesn't harm the environment. The BIOREGEN ('Biomass, remediation, re-generation: reusing brownfield sites for renewable energy crops') project received EUR 1.2 million under the EU's LIFE-Environment research programme. http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_03_01_en.html&item=&artid=15253

Europe

European citizens broadly support the new aims of agricultural policy as conducted at European Union level and a majority are in favour of maintaining its budget. This is one of the main findings of a survey of people's attitudes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Following two similar, recent polls carried out in 2006 and 2007, this latest survey confirms that the guiding principles and aims of the CAP are supported by a majority of people.

For more information please check our website: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/

PRRI-STOA Seminar for EU Parliamentarians on GMOs
Crop Biotech Update,
www.isaaa.org

The non-profit Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA) held a joint seminar February 25, 2010 at the EU parliament on "The impact of EU GMO-regulations on biotechnology research for the public good".

The article says the seminar was focused on constraints on public sector research that have been created by what are said to be "unnecessary regulatory hurdles" in many countries, particularly those in the EU. Over 150 people were in attendance, including scientists and representatives from the European Commission, various European Governments, non-governmental organizations, and industry. Presenting at the seminar, Dr. El-Beltagy, chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), argued that green biotechnology can aid in the development of crops that can survive the effects of climate change.

Maive Rute, director of European Commission's Biotechnology, Agriculture and Fisheries and Food Directorate, gave an account of how she said that biotechnology, including genetic modification (GM) technology, can benefit Europe. Rute also discussed actions taken by the European Commission to support biotechnology research. Emilio Rodriguez of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and Institute for Prospective Technological Studies presented on the economic and productivity impacts of growing GM crops worldwide and within the EU.

And Piero Morandini of the University of Milan in Italy described difficulties being experienced by European public researchers as a result of the way in which GM regulations have been implemented. Morandini described various research projects that are halted at the laboratory level due to costs and "regulatory hurdles" associated with conducting GM field trials.

More information  at http://www.pubresreg.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=78

STOA seminar ?The impact of EU GMO-Regulations on Biotechnology Research for the Public Good?
The video and the presentations of the STOA event that took place on 25/02/10 in the European Parliament are now available. During the meeting, public researchers provided examples of the many difficulties carrying out GM research in Europe because of overly stringent regulations and called for simplification of the EU regulatory framework of GMOs.
We Need GM Plants That Benefit Consumers and Not Just Farmers
Eoin Lettice, the Guardian (UK),
March 8, 2010
http://www.guardian.co.uk

'Despite the decision by the European Union last week to approve the cultivation of a GM potato, plant scientist Eoin Lettice argues that consumers will only accept the technology when it provides tangible benefits for them'.

Last week's decision by the European Commission to allow genetically modified potato varieties to be grown in some European Union countries concludes a 13-year campaign by the German chemical company BASF. Eoin Lettice is a lecturer in the department of zoology, ecology and plant science at University College Cork, Ireland. He specialises in the control of plant pests and diseases

The Future of GM Crops in Europe
Scientific Alliance, Cambridge, UK;
March 12, 2010.
http://www.scientific-alliance.org

GM crops have, for many years, been a source of controversy in the EU. After a 6 year effective moratorium on new approvals, a revised regulatory system finally began to function in 2004. However, since then, the only crops approved have been soy and maize varieties for import. Now, after a 12 year gap, and 13 years after the original dossier was submitted, a further crop has at last been approved for European cultivation. This is the Amflora potato variety, developed by BASF and to be grown purely for industrial processing.

This approval is a significant breakthrough, coming as it does after so many years of stalemate in the EU. Since the lifting of the moratorium, a significant number of dossiers have been submitted, but all have been for import only. Even in these cases, the entrenched opposition from member states such as Austria, Greece and Italy meant that, despite consistent positive assessments by scientists working on behalf of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there has never been a qualified majority of votes for approval by the Council.

In such cases, the system allows for the final decision to be made by the Commission which, until Amflora came along, had always taken the rational approach and approved the applications in line with EFSA recommendation. Not so, however, for this landmark application for a new crop actually to be planted in European soil. The then Environment Commissioner, Stavros  Dimas, had an opportunity to take the expected positive decision following an inconclusive vote by the Agriculture Ministers in 2007. He failed to do so, and the dossier was sent back to EFSA for further consideration, specifically regarding the presence of an antibiotic resistance marker gene. EFSA has come to the conclusion several times that the presence of the maker gene should not be a barrier to approval.

However, it has taken the formation of a new Commission for a science-based decision to be made. According to John Dalli, the new health commissioner, 'any delay in taking a decision now would have simply been unjustified', and the formal decision was made on 2nd March. This follows a commitment by Commission president Barroso to a more science-based approach to the issue, which included his decision to transfer responsibility for approval from DG Environment to Health. DG Environment has long opposed the spread of crop biotechnology in Europe, and a change of commissioner would in itself have been unlikely to alter that, given the strong influence of the environmental lobby throughout the DG.

The other significant new factor  in the equation is the Commission's intention to change the current system so that, although scientific assessments will still be undertaken centrally by EFSA, each member state will be able to decide whether to allow a crop to be grown on its soil. Full details will emerge later this year, but this seems a pragmatic decision, recognising the reality that certain countries are still viscerally opposed to GM crops, while others are far more welcoming. Spanish farmers, for example, have grown insect-resistance maize continually since the mid-90s, and Amflora is due to be grown in Germany, Sweden and the Czech republic.

Since the likelihood of decisive qualified majority voting in the medium term is slight at best, allowing member states to make their own decisions seems sensible. However, it is a significant step backwards in terms of integrated EU policy and a single agricultural market. If products are approved in one country, they may be effectively banned from import into another; the situation within Europe could become more like the current one between the EU and the USA.

For those who see the glass as half full, this situation may just allow the more rapid (or, at least, less slow) introduction of crop biotechnology into Europe and put pressure on those member states still resisting to see what their farmers might be missing and reconsider their decision. It would, for example, be fascinating to see how things developed in France. Generally thought of as anti-GM, the reality is that farmers in the south grew GM maize enthusiastically when permitted to do so. Given the importance of the farming lobby in France, it is difficult to believe that the government would resist pressure to follow the lead of other countries.

On the other hand, if the glass is half empty, the piecemeal introduction of GM crops in Europe may simply be too little, too late. Internal trade barriers could continue to keep the process a slow one. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, the new Commission deserves warm congratulations for resisting the green lobby and making a sensible and long-overdue decision.

BRITISH GRADUALLY CHANGING ATTITUDE TOWARD GM FOOD
There is a gradual increase in public support for genetically modified food among the British and they are less likely to have a strong attitude towards it. These are some revelations from an attitude study funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of the United Kingdom. Aside from GM food, respondents were asked about other emerging technologies such as high pressure treatment, gas filled packaging and hypothetical foods that have health benefits. The 2008 British Social Attitudes survey was designed to see changes in British social, economic, political and moral values. To read more about the report visit  http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2010/mar/foodtechbsa08
ROYAL SOCIETY REPORT CALLS FOR INCREASED INVESTMENT IN SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
The United Kingdom must place science and innovation at the heart of its long term strategy for economic growth. It must invest in science so that it can be at par with other countries  such as the U.S., Germany, China and India, and "risk relegation from the economic premier league." So says a report prepared for the Royal Society entitled The Scientific Century: securing our future prosperity by a team composed of Nobel Laureates, former ministers of science and representatives from the private sector.

The report calls for a 15-year framework for science and innovation with increased spending; and the need to prioritize investment in scientific skills and infrastructure, such as laboratories and equipment Other recommendations include the need to prioritize investment in excellent people; strengthen Government's use of science; and reinforce the UK's position as a hub for global science and innovation.

A copy of the report is available at http://royalsociety.org/The-scientific-century/

USDA GAIN REPORT ON BIOTECHNOLOGY LAW IN TURKEY
The USDA has recently released information on the passing of the National Biosafety Law in Turkey. The USDA/FAS GAIN Report discusses Turkey's National Biosafety Law which will regulate the production, sale and import of all products of, containing, or derived from biotechnology except for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. The report includes a chronology of events that lead to the passing of the Law as well as the text of the Law which the president of Turkey is expected to sign within the week.

The full report is downloadable at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Turkey%20Biotechnology%20Update_Ankara_Turkey_3-19-2010.pdf

NEW RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR FOOD AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) in Invergowrie, Dundee and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen, have agreed to set up an institute to strengthen Scotland's research capacity in food, land use and climate change, and enhance international competitiveness. It is expected to be the first of its kind in Europe.

For the news from SCRI visit http://www.scri.ac.uk/news/newinstitute

GM wheat – Weiss Research
Two projects of the Swiss National Research Program "Benefits and Risks of the deliberate release of Genetically Modified Plants" (NFP 59) have investigated the possible effects of fungus-resistant genetically modified wheat on fly larvae and aphids. The results have now been published in two scientific journals: The GM wheat had no influence on the development of the animals, or on mortality or reproduction.

The researchers were interested in the effect of GM wheat on fly larvae that decompose plant residues in the soil and so are involved in maintaining the soil fertility. Aphids were also chosen for study as they feed almost exclusively on plant sap and so are sensitive indicators for the food quality of the fodder plant.

Please read the article about the results in more detail: Safety Research Switzerland Genetically modified wheat: No influence on insect larvae and aphids. http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/738.docu.html

BASF AT WORK AFTER AMFLORA APPROVAL
BASF, the company that developed the newly approved potato Amflora, has announced the company's intention to seek approval of other genetically modified (GM) potato varieties in the pipeline. One unnamed potato variety is for specific use in industrial processes such as the manufacture of paper. Another variety named "Fortuma" has resistance traits to a fungal disease that causes high harvest losses. This potato will be used in the industrial manufacturing of food stuff such as potato chips and crisps. On another note, the company announced that "Amflora will be planted in 20 hectares in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on 80 hectares in Sweden and on 150 hectares in the Czech Republic.

The story can be viewed at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/492.docu.html

Africa

REGIONAL CLIMATE MODEL FOR CROPS IN AFRICA
Crop breeders in three East African countries - Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania - will soon be able to analyze the impact of climate change on a wide variety of crops. The Michigan State University (MSU) in the U.S. has developed a customized regional climate model linked to crop growing and water models to help access crop yield.

View the full article at  http://allafrica.com/stories/201002240894.html

South Africa: Local GM Crop Area Expands Hurriedly
Sapa, Business Report (South Africa), March 10, 2010
http://www.busrep.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3733491&fSectionId=561&fSetId=662

The first estimate that 2.4 million hectares of maize would be planted this season had been used to calculate the GM share, he explained.  "White maize represents - 1.536 million hectares and yellow maize - 864 000ha," Green said. Of the total maize area about 1.878 million hectares would be GM, a rise of 16 percent from the previous season.

There were two advantages to GM technology: higher yields, important for food security; and better quality grain.

TANZANIA PM GIVES SUPPORT TO USE OF BIOTECH IN AGRICULTURE
Minister Mizengo Pinda of Tanzania called on local scientists to do research on crops using biotechnology during a meeting at Dar es Salaam with members of the scientific community and policy makers. His statement gave an added push to the current agricultural blueprint, Kilimo Kwanza. For more crop biotech news about Tanzania, email Dr. Nicholas E Nyange, Chief Research Officer and Programme Officer of the Biotechnology & Biosafety Directorate of Research, Dar es Salaam at nicholasnyange@yahoo.com or nnyange@costech.or.tz

America

Supreme Court Urged to Clear Way for Biotech Seeds
Philip Brasher, Des Moines Register,
March 9, 2010
http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/

A court's requirement that the Agriculture Department conduct environmental studies on new genetically engineered crops harms farmers and consumers around the world by delaying biotech seeds from reaching the market, farm groups and the seed industry are telling the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Allows Genetically Engineered Beet Harvest
Paul Elias, The Associated Press,
March 16, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on Tuesday said farmers can harvest their genetically engineered sugar beets this year, ruling the economic impact too great and that environmental groups waited too long to request that the crop be yanked from the ground and otherwise barred from the market. Nearly all sugar beets planted are genetically engineered and the crop accounts for half the nation's sugar supply.

In January, the Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and several other groups and organic farmers asked White to immediately halt the planting and harvest of all genetically engineered beets while determining how to resolve the lawsuit, which was filed in 2007.

The groups sued the USDA over its approval, and the biotech company Monsanto Co., which develops genetically engineered seeds, joined the lawsuit on the government's side. The groups and organic farmers fear the biotech beets will cross-pollinate with conventional beets, as well as Swiss chard, and upset consumers who shun genetically engineered products.

In denying their request, White noted that the Center for Food Safety and the other groups who sued had ample opportunity to make such a request and he chastised them for waiting until this year to act. The judge said it appears most of the genetically engineered seeds have already been planted and it would be too disruptive to order their removal from the fields. "This ruling provides clarity that farmers can plant Roundup Ready sugarbeets in 2010," said Steve Welker, Monsanto's sugarbeet business manager.

The judge also said such an order would cause an economic catastrophe - 95 percent of sugar beets are genetically engineered with a bacteria gene to withstand sprayings of Monsanto popular weed killer Roundup. Half the nation's sugar supply is derived from beets and a Monsanto expert testified that 5,800 jobs and $283.6 million in growers' profits would be lost if he shut down the market, which stretches across 1 million acres in 10 states.

"Moreover, an injunction which would ban the planting and processing of genetically engineered sugar beets in 2010 would have a large detrimental impact on the United States' domestic sugar supply and price," White said in his eight-page ruling.

The Tarnished Gold Standard for GM Risk Assessment
Henry I. Miller, GM Crops, Volume 1, Issue 2
March/April 2010. The Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Stanford, CA 94305-6010, U.S.A. miller@hoover.stanford.edu
Download full paper at http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/article/10861/

The American public's assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades, and their views of media bias and independence now match previous lows, according to a September 2009 Pew Research Center survey. Only 29% of Americans say that news organizations usually get the facts right, while 63% say that news stories often are inaccurate.

Conducting Public-Sector Research on Commercialized Transgenic Seed::
In Search of A Paradigm That Works
TThomas W. Sappington et al. GM Crops, Vol.1, Issue 2
March/April 2010
Download full paper at http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/article/10833/

Public-sector scientists have a mandate to independently evaluate agricultural products available to American farmers on the open market, whereas the companies that sell the products must protect their intellectual property.  However, as a consequence of the latter concern, public scientists currently are prohibited by industry-imposed restrictions from conducting research on commercialized transgenic seed without permission of the company. Industry acknowledged the seriousness of the problem after public warnings by a large group of entomologists to EPA and scientific advisory panels that the assumption of independence of public-sector studies on these products is no longer valid under current restrictions.  Both industry and public scientists are working to find an amicable, mutually-acceptable solution.

Recently, the American Seed Trade Association brokered a draft set of principles designed to protect the legitimate property rights of companies while allowing public scientists independence to conduct most types of research on their commercialized products without the need for case-by-case agreements.  While there are a number of potential pitfalls in implementation of the principles across companies, this effort represents a major step forward, and there is reason for optimism that this approach can be made to work to the benefit of industry, public scientists, and the American public.
Engineered Oranges Needed to Resist Disease -- NAS
Paul Voosen of Greenwire, New York Times,
March 23, 2010

If the Florida orange industry wants to resist a sweeping tide of disease that has ravaged its trees for the past five years, it will likely have no choice but to genetically engineer its crops, according to a report released today by the National Academy of Sciences.

Asia

BIOTECH GETS THE GO AHEAD FROM BANGLADESH AGRICULTURE MINISTER
Biotechnology is an indispensable tool to meet the world's growing demand for more food. It is a useful tool to fight hunger, poverty and malnutrition when biosafety requirements are strictly followed. Bangladesh Minister for Agriculture Begum Matia Chowdhury made these remarks as Chief Guest during the launch of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) report on the global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops for 2009. For more information about crop biotechnology in Bangladesh email Dr. Khondoker Nasiruddin at nasirbiotech@yahoo.com.

The Executive Summary and Highlights of the ISAAA report are available at http://www.isaaa.org

PAKISTAN AND CHINA TIE-UP ON IMPROVING AGRIC SECTOR
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), China's Jiangsu Mingtian Seeds Science Technology Co. Ltd (JMSSTCL), and Four Brothers Group of Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop the agricultural sector in Pakistan.

PARC Chairman Zafar Altaf said China will provide seeds and technology through field trials to determine the best varieties of cotton, rice, corn and rapeseeds for maximum productivity. JMSSTCL will provide germplasm for production of high yielding seeds, share local planting experiences, and facilitate training of farmers. The PARC chairman added that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited China and had identified possible areas of cooperation between the two countries: hybrid seeds, modern agriculture technologies, water management, high efficiency irrigation and water pumping through solar technology.

View the orginal article at http://www.seedtoday.com/info/ST_articles.html?

China

YUAN LONG PIN AWARDED THE HIGHEST MEDAL ON AGRICULTURE IN FRANCE
Professor Yuan Longpin, the founder of hybrid rice, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, was recently awarded the highest medal for agriculture reward in France. The award established in 1883 is given to honor those who have outstanding accomplishments in agriculture. The French Ambassador handed the award to Prof. Yuan in a ceremony at the French embassy in Beijing for his contribution to hybrid rice and world food security. China can now cultivate hybrid rice that yield 7.2 to 9 tons per hectare which is 20% higher than the normal high yielding rice varieties. Hybrid rice is now cultivated in other Asian countries including Vietnam, India, Thailand and the Philippines with an average increase of 2 tons per hectare compared to the inbred varieties.

In his speech, Prof. Yuan considered the medal a motivation for him to work even harder and that science should not be constrained by national boundaries. He believed that since hybrid rice could increase rice yield by 2 tons per hectare, cultivating it would feed 400 million people every year. Promoting hybrid rice cultivation throughout the world is of great importance to food security and peace.

For details, see the article at http://english.agri.gov.cn/ga/np/201003/t20100324_1686.htm

India

INDIA'S PRIME MINISTER BATS ON GM CROPS FOR FOOD SECURITY
In the wake of a recent decision on Bt brinjal, the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh had a consultation on Bt brinjal with a group of senior Ministerial colleagues including Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Environment Minister  Jairam Ramesh. The consultation underlined the importance of biotechnology in productivity and food security, called for private investment in biotech, a time-frame for a decision on Bt brinjal, and the establishment of the National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority. Mr Singh advised that The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India's apex biotech/GM regulatory committee, will address the concerns and resolve all scientific issues relating to Bt brinjal.
India's Bt Cotton Crop Area Rises to 8 Million Hectares;
Yields Up 31 Per Cent:
Domain B, March 10 2010 http://www.domain-b.com/industry/biotechnology/index.html

The area under Bt cotton in the country has increased from 29,000 hectares in 2002-03 to an anticipated 8 million hectares in 2009-10. Bt cotton has also helped increase crop yields by 31 per cent, the government said today.

The average yield of Bt cotton has increased from 300 kg per hectare in 2001-02 to 560 kg per hectare in 2007-08, K V Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution, informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply today.

Cultivation of Bt cotton has resulted in a 31 per cent increase in yields, 39 per cent reduction in pesticide usage and more than 80 per cent increase in profitability of farmers

News in Science

Scientists sequence wild grass species
An international research team has successfully sequenced the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon, a grass species related to major cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats. Published in the journal Nature, the study's findings are part of the EU-funded AGRON-OMICS ('Arabidopsis growth network integrating omics technologies') project, which received EUR 12 million under the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' Thematic area of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_02_23_en.html&item=&artid=15173
RESEARCHERS DECIPHER APHID GENOME
An international consortium has published the whole genome sequence of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Reporting in the journal PLoS Biology, members of the International Aphid Genomics Consortium said they found extensive gene duplication in more than 2000 gene families as well as loss of evolutionarily conserved genes including genes involved in the IMD immune pathway, selenoprotein utilization, purine salvage, and the entire urea cycle. The 464 Mb aphid genome contains all genes required for epigenetic regulation by methylation. The researchers also found that the genes encoding the synthesis of a number of essential amino acids are distributed between the genomes of the pea aphid and its symbiont, Buchnera aphid cola. The paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000313
Helps Fight Crop Disease
Agence France Presse
March 14, 2010
http://www.france24.com

Phytobiologists led by Cyril Zipfel at the Sainsbury Laboratory at Norwich, eastern England delved into plants' innate defence systém govern so-called pattern recognition receptors, or PRRs. PRRs were first discovered 15 years ago, although only a few have been discovered to date, and much is unclear. It was known that a PRR can spot essential proteins from quite a wide a range of bacteria. But it was uncertain whether the defence is unique to a given family of plants or can be transferred to another. Zipfel's team took a PRR that was specific to the Brassica family and slotted it into two plants from the Solanaceae family. The Solanaceae plants showed "drastically enhanced" resistance to many different bacteria, including Ralstonia solanacearum, a major cause of crop wilt. "The strength of this resistance is because it has come from a different plant family, which the pathogen has not had any chance to adapt to," Zipfel said in a press release. PRRs are present in some plants that aid in the recognition of essential molecules that are key to keeping a pathogen alive. Its presence in the plant will increase its chance of fighting the disease. This was confirmed when genetically modified Nicotiana benthamiana and Solanum lycopersicon containing the Brassica-specific PRR were found to be resistant to a number of different bacteria including the hazardous ones. "The strength of this resistance is because it has come from a different plant family, which the pathogen has not had any chance to adapt to, " explained Dr. Cyril Zipfel of The Sainsbury Laboratory. "We can now transfer this resistance across plant species boundaries in a way traditional breeding cannot."

The full details of this article can be found at http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=FP6_NEWS&ACTION=D&DOC=7&CAT=NEWS&QUERY=01278b623f18:92a8:26bbfb1f&RCN=31876

Can Corn Be Taught to Fix Its Own Nitrogen?
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/uoia-ccb030410.php

URBANA - Nitrogen fertilization is essential for profitable corn production. It also is a major cost of production and can contribute to degradation of the environment. Is it possible to "teach" corn to fix its own nitrogen, thus eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizer applications? University of Illinois agricultural engineer Kaustubh Bhalerao believes it may be, through research in an emerging area of engineering called synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology is a new area of research that combines science and engineering in order to design and build or "synthesize" novel biological functions and systéme. Scientists are using this new technology to make biosensors sensitive to light, sensitive to uranium, sensitive to rust, etc. Proven concepts in various stages of development include using bacterial sensors to build bacterial photographic plates, assist with the nuclear mining of uranium, or detect unexploded landmines in the soil.

Bhalerao is leading a multidisciplinary research initiative with collaborators from many universities. He aimed at building systems that enable bacteria to spatially organize and communicate with and control plant cells. The research is funded through a grant of about $2 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation and United Kingdom's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

A specific application being investigated is the design of a system that enables nitrogen fixing bacteria to communicate with the root systems of corn plants.

Rare Variation in Maize Gene Means More Vitamin A from Maize
http://www.harvestplus.org/content/more-vitamin-maize

Washington, D.C., March 20, 2010: A team of scientists has discovered rare variations of a maize gene (crtRB1) that can lead to an 18-fold increase in beta-carotene content of maize in an academic research setting. Plant breeders are starting to use these naturally occurring genetic variations to breed maize that can provide more beta-carotene to malnourished people. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.

RESISTANCE TO BT COTTON REPORTED IN WESTERN INDIA
An article published by Science reports that a new insect pest has developed resistance to Monsanto's genetically modified cotton in India. Science quoted Monsanto as saying that it has "detected unusual survival" of pink bollworms fed with the Bt Cry1Ac protein produced by the GM cotton. Monsanto said that the discovery "is the first case of field-relevant resistance to Cry1Ac products, anywhere in the world."

 Monsanto said in statement released last March 5 that during field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat state, its scientists collected "large numbers" of pink bollworms from Bollgard cotton. The pink bollworms were collected and were exposed to high concentrations of the insecticidal Cry1Ac protein and were found to survive. The problem appears to be isolated, but Monsanto says it reported its findings "to key stakeholders so appropriate decisions can be made."

The original story is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/327/5972/1439

OOviposition Behaviour  of Pest Insects Keeps Bt-Cotton Durably Resistant
Wageningen University and Research Centre,
March 1, 2010

Moths behave like Darwin's finches - The oviposition behaviour of insect pests results in an improved durability of insect resistance in so-called Bt-crops, while promoting the survival of pest insects elsewhere in nature. This is the result of research carried out by the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen UR in collaboration with the University of North Carolina (USA). Bt-cotton has been cultivated on a large scale in countries such as China, India and the US for over thirteen years now. During this period the crops' resistance has hardly ever been broken. According to the scientists, this can likely be attributed to the fact that some insect pest individuals have a preference for laying eggs on other plants. The larvae from those eggs will develop normally, giving them a selective advantage. The results were recently published in the scientific journal.

CLONED GENE BEING USED TO DEVELOP ALUMINUM TOLERANT CROPS
The gene encodes a novel membrane transporter protein in the root tip that mediates the release of citric acid into the soil upon exposure to the roots. Aluminum ions are bound with the citric acid preventing it from entering the roots. Genetic markers are currently being developed in order to efficiently introduce the aluminum tolerance gene into modern sorghum varieties. On going studies are also being conducted to improve maize tolerance to acidic soils.

or details, see the story at http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb10/aaasKochian.html

EFFECTS OF TRANSGENIC ROOTSTOCKS ON GROWTH OF SCION CULTIVARS IN APPLE
Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are investigating the effects of transgenic apple rootstocks on growth, flowering and fruit quality of non-transgenic scion cultivars grafted onto these rootstocks. The rootstocks express the rolB gene, a well documented rooting related gene and has been proved to stimulate rooting in different plant species when over expressed. In apple production, dwarfing rootstocks are commonly used for achieving high production efficiency.

The researchers, reporting in the journal Transgenic Research, found that all rolB transgenic rootstocks significantly reduced vegetative growth including tree height regardless of scion cultivar, compared with the non-transgenic rootstocks. Flowering and fruiting were also decreased for cultivars grown on the transgenic rootstocks in most cases, but the fruit quality was not clearly affected by the transgenic rootstocks. The use of GM rootstocks in combination with non-transgenic scion cultivars may circumvent the food safety issue if the transgenes or their products are not present in scion fruits.

The original paper is available at http://dx.doi,.org/10.1007/s11248-010-9370-0

SCIENTISTS FIND THE FEMALE HORMONE PROGESTERONE IN PLANT
Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago are reporting for the first time the discovery of the female sex hormone progesterone in a plant. Guido F. Pauli and colleagues said they have found the steroid hormone in Juglans regia (common walnut). The discovery came as a surprise since scientists thought that only animals could make progesterone. They speculate that the hormone, like other steroid hormones, might be an ancient bioregulator that evolved billions of years ago, before the appearance of modern plants and animals. The new discovery may change scientific understanding of the evolution and function of progesterone in living things.

The original paper is available for download at http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/np9007415

PPLANT HORMONE INCREASES COTTON YIELDS IN DROUGHT CONDITIONS
Cytokinin, a plant growth hormone that promotes cell division and growth in plants, was found to effectively stimulate the growth of cotton stem and branches. The research conducted by John Burke, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas found that one application of cytokinin produced a 5 to 10 percent increase in yields under water-reduced conditions. Application of the hormone in fully irrigated or rainy conditions does not affect the normal growth of the plant. In addition, the hormone can be applied during routine weed management practices early in the season.

The full story can be found at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

NEW DROUGHT TOLERANT SOYBEAN VARIETIES
For more details read the United Soybean Board press release at http://www.unitedsoybean.com/pressroom/press_releases.aspx
SCIENTISTS DEVELOP TRANSGENIC PLANTS WITH INCREASED GLUTATHIONE
Reporting in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, the researchers said that transgenic tobacco plants expressing StGCL-GS show an extreme accumulation of GSH in their leaves (up to 12 ?mol GSH/gFW, depending on the developmental stage), which is more than 20- to 30-fold above the levels observed in wild-type plants and which can be even further increased by additional sulphate fertilization. The researchers also said that transgenic plants showed increased abiotic stress tolerance. Since the expression of StGCL-GS had no effects on plant growth, the system can be competitive with current yeast-based systems.

The paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2010.00510.x

DISEASE-RESISTANT CROPS THROUGH PRR GENE TRANSFER
Scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the UK in collaboration with an international team have studied how to improve resistance by enhancing capability of the plants' own innate immune system, with focus on the pattern recognition receptor (PRR).
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