News in April 2010
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2010-05-05

General - Global

UN Launches Biotech Network for Developing Countries
Carol Campbell, Scidev.net, April 22, 2010

Developing countries wanting to make more of their biotechnology resources are the target of a network launched by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

The International Industrial Biotechnology Network (IIBN) will help local universities and small-to-medium enterprises to develop and improve existing biotechnology products. It will also encourage further bio-prospecting.

George Tzotzos, IIBN programme co-ordinator, told www.SciDev.Net that the network would provide biotechnology support and access to high-level technologies for developing countries wanting to make better use of their existing biological resources. "In Bahia [Brazil] this could mean taking a fresh look at a plant like the castor bean, which is used for medicinal and industrial purposes and is being considered as a potential source of bio-fuel for local use," he said.

Tzotzos added that a major hurdle for developing countries that wish to sell biotechnology products in Europe is meeting the European Union's stringent safety standards and maintaining a high product quality. "Many products from the developing world are produced using low grade technology and, because of this, their full potential [in market share] is never realised," he said. "Often quality is not maintained between shipments of a product, and consumers eventually lose confidence in the product.

"It is at this point that we can help, by making connections and establishing mutually beneficial partnerships. "This programme will help the developing world access existing markets and build [capacity] to ensure maximum return for their effort," he added.

Ivan Ingelbrecht, project manager for the IIBN and based at Ghent University, Belgium, said the network would serve as a catalyst for establishing North-South and South-South partnerships. "There is a biotechnology skills base in Flanders [Belgium] that we can tap into immediately. The role of the network is match-making and, if needed, co-ordination," he said.

The IIBN - launched in Austria last month (29 March) - is funded by the Flemish Ministry for Innovation, Public Investment, Media and Poverty Reduction, in Belgium. The ministry is providing core funding of US$1.66 million (EUR 1.25 million) over the next five years, but network members will be asked to contribute as well. Already, Brazil's Bahia state has pledged to donate a further US$3.5 million.

The network will be co-ordinated by the Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Belgium, and supervised by a scientific and technological advisory panel and a steering committee. Initial members include organisations from Belgium, Brazil and Israel. China and Peru are still discussing their partnerships with the network, and IIBN plans to target Africa for collaborations later this year.

Future funding for agricultural research uncertain
Financial donors wrangle over global research group's strategy.
Natasha Gilbert

Financial donors to a global network of 15 agricultural research centres want changes to the way the influential group plans to reshape its research programme. The tensions, voiced at a conference in Montpellier, France, raise questions over future funding for the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), which supports thousands of scientists working on agriculture and food security in developing countries.

Debate over the CGIAR's future direction and funding reforms is a key part of this week's Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, where the world's major agricultural research funders, scientists and research users, including farmers, are thrashing out a new direction for the area, helping to set national and international research agendas.

What It Will Take to Feed The World
Declan Butler,
Nature, April 14, 2010, v.464, p.969
http://www.nature.com

'Nature talks to Marion Guillou, the chief executive of France's National Institute for Agricultural Research, Europe's largest agricultural-research agency after the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

She talks to Declan Butler about how researchers are trying to meet the challenge of feeding a world population that is estimated to grow to 9 billion people by 2050. Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development. The conference showed that agricultural researchers are mobilized and recognize themselves as a global community. At the same time, there is strong tension between the CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] international research centres and the global agricultural research community. The centres tend to be too closed to those outside, and there is pressure to open them up to national and other agricultural research bodies.

Developing countries at the conference also sent a strong message about the return in strength of family farms; that making these more productive is key to both alleviating poverty and meeting local and global food demand. It's a new political message: count on and help small farms. The international focus has long been on large-scale industrial farming, so this changes quite a few things. The themes of research for smallholdings are very different from those of large-scale farming, involving, for example, concepts such as crop rotation, complements of animals and plants, and the use of animal waste as fertilizer, so the research questions are not the same.

Much media coverage on developing-world agriculture has focused on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Are these the silver bullets they are often made out to be?

It's clear that genetic progress in the past in France and other rich countries accounted for much of the increase in production, so genetics is far from passé; it's still the number-one technique for increasing yields, for example. For Africa to improve its yields, we clearly need new genetically selected varieties, engineered by either genetic modification or classic breeding techniques. For me, GMOs are not a magic bullet, but we should not refuse them a priori. It's critical to look at GMOs on a case-by-case basis. The first generation of genetically modified organisms on the market is not the one that will solve Africa's problems, although one crop, a Chinese GMO cotton that is resistant to bollworm, has proved extremely useful to the population, because it avoids the spraying of dangerous pesticides - the risk-benefit equation is clearly in favour of its use.

Books & Articles

Antimicrobial resistance
is the topic of new Eurobarometer survey.

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

The bioeconomy to 2030: Designing a policy agenda
Michael Oborne, Director, OECD International Futures Programme
http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/3233/
Peer-reviewed Surveys Indicate Positive Impact of Commercialized GM Crops
Janet E Carpenter Nature Biotechnology, April 2010, Vol. 28, p 319-321. Excerpt below.
Full paper at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n4/full/nbt0410-319.html

Of 168 results comparing yields of GM and conventional crops, 124 show positive results for adopters compared to non-adopters, 32 indicate no difference and 13 are negative. By far the largest numbers of results comparing yields of adopters and non-adopters come from India and the United States, which account for 26% and 23% of the results, respectively.

The results for yields indicate that farmers in developing countries are achieving greater yield increases than farmers in developed countries. The average yield increases for developing countries range from 16% for insect-resistant corn to 30% for insect-resistant cotton, with an 85% yield increase observed in a single study on herbicide-tolerant corn. On average, developed-country farmers report yield increases that range from no change for herbicide-tolerant cotton to a 7% increase for herbicide-tolerant soybean and insect-resistant cotton.

OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies
OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Italy 2010
Review of the Italian National Civil Protection System
OECD Publishing Price:   €45 | $63 | Ł40 | Ą5800 | 
Version: Print (Paperback) + Free PDF
Biotech Crops Continue to Make Important Contributions to Sustainable Farming and to Global Food Affordability
Graham Brookes, PG Economics, UK;  April 28, 2010
http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/

Two new studies show biotech crops continue to deliver significant global economic and environmental benefits and make important contributions to global food production, food security and lower real prices for food and feed crops

Benefits of GM crops
Meat Trade News UK, April 28, 2010
http://www.meattradenewsdaily.co.uk

Unlike the argument recently put forward by Daniel Church, three reports published this month have documented the benefits of GM crops around the world. A review of peer-reviewed surveys of farmers worldwide who are using the technology compared to farmers who continue to plant conventional crops, published last week in Nature Biotechnology, found that by and large farmers have benefited.

The Role of Molecular Markers and Marker Assisted Selection in Breeding for Organic Agriculture
E. T. Lammerts van Bueren, G. Backes, H. de Vriend and H. Řstergĺrd, Euphytica
Full paper at http://www.springerlink.com/content/h1r32625218lg0q4/fulltext.html

Pros and contras for application of molecular markers in breeding for organic agriculture was the topic of a recent European plant breeding workshop. The participants evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the use of molecular markers and we formalized their inputs into breeder's perspectives and perspectives seen from the organic sector's standpoint. Clear strengths were identified, e.g. better knowledge about gene pool of breeding material, more efficient introgression of new resistance genes from wild relatives and testing pyramided genes. There were also common concerns among breeders aiming at breeding for organic and/or conventional agriculture, such as the increasing competition and cost investments to get access to marker technology, and the need for bridging the gap between phenotyping and genotyping especially with complex and quantitative inherited traits such as nutrient-efficiency.

The Human Genome at Ten
Ten years ago, the fiercest research race in biology was entering the home straight, as two teams vied to sequence the human genome. Nature's special (05 April 2010) asks what lessons have been learned from the first post-genome decade. Highlights include Francis Collins and Craig Venter
Science and Innovation for Development
New book by Gordon Conway and Jeff Waage with Sara Delaney.
Order or download from http://www.ukcds.org.uk

Conway and Waage take on the topic of the crucial role that science can play in the challenge of poverty reduction - with science acting as lever for change through both research and knowledge generation for policy guidance, and the development of innovative and appropriate technologies.

The authors make the following five key recommendations to policy makers and development practitioners:

bulletTrain and empower scientists;
bulletStrengthen science innovation systems in developing countries;
bulletEnsure that new technologies are accessible to science for development;
bulletDesign and deliver research for impact;
bulletRaise the profile of science in governments.
CropWorld
London (UK), November 1-3, 2010
http://www.crop-world.com

Formerly know as the BCPC Congress, this is the only event of its kind in the world to embrace all aspects of crop production and will use the combined experience of internationally-recognised experts to deliver a top-quality, content-rich conference programme, which will feature leading speakers from around the world and address a wide range of issues. Global food security, climate change, environmental and regulatory factors affecting crop production, the future for GM crops, agrochemicals, fertilisers, seeds and crop nutrients, water utilisation and irrigation are just some of the topics which will be addressed.

Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know
New book by Robert Paarlberg (Paperback),
Oxford University Press, USA (April 7, 2010) p 240. ISBN-13: 978-0195389593.
Amazon price $11.53; Kindle Edition $9.99
http://www.amazon.com/Food-Politics-What-Everyone-Needs/dp/019538959X
Barriers and Paths to Market for Genetically Engineered Crops
Caius M. Rommens, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Vol. 8, Issue 2, P101-111; Blackwell Publishing.
Full article at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/123200391/HTMLSTART

Each year, billions of dollars are invested in efforts to improve crops through genetic engineering (GE). These activities have resulted in a surge of publications and patents on technologies and genes: a momentum in basic research that, unfortunately, is not sustained throughout the subsequent phases of product development. After more than two decades of intensive research, the market for transgenic crops is still dominated by applications of just a handful of methods and genes.

This discrepancy between research and development reflects difficulties in understanding and overcoming seven main barriers-to-entry: (1) trait efficacy in the field, (2) critical product concepts, (3) freedom-to-operate, (4) industry support, (5) identity preservation and stewardship, (6) regulatory approval and (7) retail and consumer acceptance. In this review, I describe the various roadblocks to market for transgenic crops and also discuss methods and approaches on how to overcome these, especially in the United States. (cut)

New GM Crop Database from the Center for Environmental Risk Assessment
CERA. (2010). GM Crop Database. Center for Environmental Risk Assessment (CERA), Washington D.C. http://cera-gmc.org/index.php?action=gm_crop_database

M Crop Database, which is unmatched by any other web-based resource in providing accurate, provides factual, safety-related information about regulatory evaluations and approvals of genetically modified (GM) plants. Previously hosted by AGBIOS, this searchable database is used extensively by regulatory agencies, the academic and product developer communities, and members of the value chain.

CERA's database of safety information includes not only plants produced using recombinant DNA technologies (e.g., genetically engineered or transgenic plants), but also plants with novel traits that may have been produced using more traditional methods, such as accelerated mutagenesis or plant breeding. These latter plants are only regulated in Canada

'World Agriculture'-  New Journal
http://www.world-agriculture.net

"The two big issues facing mankind on planet earth today are Food Security and Climate Change"

World Agriculture, a peer-reviewed, completely independent, non-profit, journal, will explore scientific, economic and social evidence concerning agriculture and its interaction with forestry, climate change, population growth, migration, disease and ecology.

Food Economics and Consumer Choice:
Why agriculture needs technology to help meet a growing demand for safe, nutritious and affordable food
http://www.elanco.com/index.html

Elanco President Jeff Simmons provides facts, figures and rationale to demonstrate why a growing global population needs to have access to the best technologies in order to be able to feed the world not only today, but in the future.

AMFLORA – Nature
Making the Most of GM Potatoes
Gerhart U Ryffel, Nature Biotechnology, April 2010, Vol. 28, p 318
http://www.nature.com/nbt

The recent approval of the Amflora potato by the European Union (EU)-the EU's first registration of a genetically modified (GM) potato in 12 years-has garnered considerable media attention and public controversy.

"The impact of transgenes is basically limited to their immediate function"
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/741.docu.html

Articles from GMO-Safety.eu may be used for journalistic purposes with acknowledgement of the source, www.gmo-safety.eu. In the case of publication, we would be pleased to receive a voucher copy. GMO Safety editorial team.

The www.GMO-Safety.eu internet portal provides up-to-date, clear information about the research projects funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on the biological safety of genetically modified plants. A comprehensive database with summaries of the research topics, methods and results is supplemented by background reports and interviews and insights into the day-to-day work of researchers. The portal makes the findings of biological safety research accessible to the general public and is intended to help people form an informed opinion. It is produced on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research by the project partners Genius GmbH, Darmstadt; i-Bio Information Biowissenschaften (previously TransGen), Aachen

Breeding Causes More Changes In Plants Than Genetic Engineering
GMO Safety (EU)

It is often maintained that genetic interventions may have unintended consequences for the metabolism of modified plants and by implication for human health and the environment as well. A recently completed research project compared gene expression and plant substances in different conventional and transgenic barley lines. GMO Safety discussed the findings with Uwe Sonnewald, one of the project leaders.

The Survey on Biotechnology Capacity in Asia-Pacific:
Opportunities for National Initiatives and Regional Cooperation
Sachin Chaturvedi Krishna and Ravi Srinivas, UNESCO, Jakarta.
Download at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001874/187493e.pdf

The report "maps the contours and directions of biotechnology development in the Asia-Pacific region, identifies the strengths and weaknesses and suggests measures to be taken by governments, donors, multilateral and UN agencies and industry, in order to ensure that the region benefits most from biotechnology."

The document analyzes the state of biotechnology development in the following countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lao, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Events

The third annual AgriGenomics World Congress
which will be held in Brussels on 8-9 July 2010
The 2010 BIO International Convention
will feature a robust food and agriculture program highlighting the biotechnologies that address global issues such as hunger and climate change as well as the role of policy in the public's ability to benefit from these technologies. Hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Convention will be held May 3-6, 2010 in Chicago, Ill. at McCormick Place.

See http://convention.bio.org

International Conference on Plant Molecular Breeding
Beijing, P. R. China, September 5-9, 2010
http://icpmb.thegsr.org/

Topics for the plenary sessions (one or two speakers on each subject)

bulletThe role of plant breeding in meeting food security
bulletApplied plant genomics
bulletGene/pathway discovery and functions
bulletEpistasis/epigenetics
bulletMolecular breeding platforms
bulletNew transgene technologies, products and markets
bulletCrop germplasms and genetic diversity
bulletNew technologies in plant molecular breeding
bulletNew theories/concepts in plant molecular breeding
bulletBioinformatics technology and analytic tools for plant molecular breeding

Europe - EU

GMO Asynchronous and Asymmetric approvals: bringing lasting solutions to identified problems
CEN and ENEA, March 18-19,2010, Brussels
http://www.bruxelles.enea.it/Eventi/GMORES2010.html

The 18th and 19th March 2010, the workshop "GMO Asynchronous and Asymmetric approvals: bringing lasting solutions to identified problems" was organized by CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in Brussels.

The workshop represented an important step towards the objective of bringing together all the stakeholders and increasing the efforts on the harmonization of technical methodologies and authorization procedures regulating GM crops in Europe.

During the first part of the workshop, the Asynchronous Approval issue in the global context of GM crops, was illustrated in detail by 20 European speakers representing Research Centres and Academics, Reference Laboratories, Regulatory Bodies, European Commission and the Food and Feed Chain Stakeholders. Approximately 50 external attendants representing Ministries of Environment and Public Health, Food and Feed Federations and Associations, SMEs, Research Centres, Universities, Food Safety Authorities and others from various European countries actively participated in the event.

Broader aspects of the issue regarding the legal uncertainty linked to the Low Level Presence and Zero-Tolerance characterizing European Policy in the international trade context were addressed in depth, as were the Rapid Alert systems recently put in place in some European countries. The need for the implementation of a "technical solution" to limit the supply disruptions and adverse economic impacts emerged unanimously both in the Food and for the Feed production system.

During the open roundtable on the second day, a representative of the European Commission provided different elements that are currently considered for the "technical solution" that is under development by the Commission. These elements were discussed among all participants.

Potato-Head Regulators
Henry Miller, MD, Wall Street Journal, * Opinion Europe* April 19, 2010

'Treating genetically engineered products as though they pose inherent, unique risks, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is not very smart.'

The theatre of the absurd is alive and well in Brussels. The circumstances surrounding the European Union's recent approval of cultivation of a genetically engineered potato-its first approval for any genetically engineered plant in 12 years-are reminiscent of Beckett and Ionesco: abstruse and bewildering.

Europe

Dramatic drop in biotech investment: France Biotech survey results for 2008/2009
14.04.10 Paris – The crisis over the last two years has significantly impacted investment levels in the French life science industry. This is one of the results of the 2008/2009 "Panorama" survey of the French and global life science...
French and German GMO-gate?
Marcel Kuntz, Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale, Grenoble cedex - France
(www.kuntz-at-ujf-grenoble.fr)

Agnčs Ricroch, Jean-Baptiste Bergé and Marcel Kuntz examined the justifications invoked by the French Government in January/February 2008 and by the German Government in April 2009 to suspend the cultivation of the genetically modified maize MON810. To read their recent article in ISB News Report (page 8):  http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2010/Apr10.pdf

The circumstances surrounding the French Government's decision and two meta-analyses by J.B. Bergé and A. Ricroch of the "scientific" arguments commissioned by the French Government can be found at:  http://www.marcel-kuntz-ogm.fr/article-germany-france-45973948.html

Conclusions: Neither government has provided scientific data justifying its ban. Both governments have deliberately commissioned biased reports, with  an incomplete set of scientific references and presenting false conclusions on an environmental impact of MON810 to satisfy a political agenda.

America

Genetically Engineered Crops Benefit Many Farmers, But The Technology Needs Proper Management to Remain Effective
National Research Council, USA
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12804

The study was funded by the National Research Council. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

The report provides the first comprehensive assessment of how GE crops are affecting all U.S. farmers, including those who grow conventional or organic crops. The new report follows several previous Research Council reports that examined the potential human health and environmental effects of GE crops.

David Ervin, professor of environmental management and economics, Portland State University, Portland, Ore., and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "However, these benefits are not universal for all farmers. And as more GE traits are developed and incorporated into a larger variety of crops, it's increasingly essential that we gain a better understanding of how genetic engineering technology will affect U.S. agriculture and the environment now and in the future. Such gaps in our knowledge are preventing a full assessment of the environmental, economic, and other impacts of GE crops on farm sustainability."

A Greener Earth Day
Henry I. Miller, April 22, 2010
http://www.forbes.com/

The first Earth Day celebration was conceived by then-U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson and held in 1970 as a "symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship." In the spirit of the time, it was a touchy-feely, consciousness-raising, New Age experience, and most activities were organized at the grassroots level.

More recently, Earth Day has provided an opportunity for environmental Cassandras to prophesy apocalypse, trash technology and proselytize. Passion and zeal trump science. A perennial target at these events is biotechnology applied to agriculture, which one anti-technology activist characterized as threatening "a form of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust." Greenpeace seeks no less than biotech products' "complete elimination [from] the food supply and the environment."

Who could tell from such apocalyptic language that what is at issue are products like pro-vitamin-A-fortified "Golden Rice," which promises to ameliorate the ravages of vitamin A in many poor countries, and papayas, corn and cotton plants genetically improved to give higher yields and resist pests grow under adverse climatic conditions and with less agricultural chemicals.

The situation in India illustrates biotech's vicissitudes. In only seven years, the introduction of pest-resistant, genetically engineered cotton has revolutionized the nation's cotton production--halved insecticide requirements, doubled yield and generated aggregate economic benefit for farmers of more than $5 billion. India has been transformed from a cotton importer to a major exporter.

And yet resistance from activists and bureaucratic intransigence remains. In February India's Minister of Environment and Forests imposed an indefinite moratorium on genetically modified, pest-resistant eggplant, claiming the science wasn't yet proven. His rationale is absurd. The eggplant variety had undergone nine years of intensive testing and scrutiny (much of it gratuitous). Approximately 200 scientists and experts from more than 15 public- and private-sector institutions participated. The application for commercialization passed the review of innumerable governmental panels and committees. Bluntly put, the minister caved in to extreme, anti-technology, anti-social activists.

Canada

GM Varieties On Agenda In Wheat Development Deal
Country Guide (Canada), April 8/2010
http://www.country-guide.ca/

Canada's wheat growers are expected to be among the main beneficiaries of a partnership agreement between a major non-profit wheat developer and seed and chemical firm Syngenta.

Not all Canadian wheat growers are likely to see it that way immediately, however, as the agreement between Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) focuses on "the development and advancement of technology in wheat, including genetically modified (GM) wheat."

The development deal is expected to leverage Swiss-based Syngenta's genetic marker technology, "advanced traits" platform and wheat breeding "for the developed world." CIMMYT, meanwhile, is expected to bring to the table its "access to wheat genetic diversity, global partnership network and wheat breeding program targeted to the developing world."

Asia

GM Papaya Wins Approval in U.S., Japan
Henry Cline, Western Farm Press, April 20, 2010
http://westernfarmpress.com

Genetically modified papaya will soon be on the supermarket shelves in Japan just like it now is in the U.S.

This first-ever fresh market GMO food product is not from an American corporate giant. It is the result of tenacious research from a host of scientists and the cooperation of Hawaiian farmers. This rare feat in today's contentious debate over GMO crops was not accomplished to make a statement. It was to save an important crop for farmers in the impoverished state of Hawaii.

Dennis Gonsalves, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, and professor emeritus of plant pathology at Cornell, detailed to the 63rd annual meeting of the Western Society of Weed Science in Hawaii how Hawaiian agriculture has done what no other ag sector has; win approval to market a genetically modified food crop in the U.S. and Japan.

India

Hundreds of Scientists Petition the Indian Government to Reverse the Ban on Bt Brinjal
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, April 23, 2010.
http://www.fbae.org

The efficacy and safety of Bt technology have been convincingly demonstrated through over 14 years of commercial cultivation and consumption as food and feed in over 25 countries.

Bt brinjal containing the Cry1Ac gene was developed in a public-private partnership to control the shoot and fruit borers that cause up to 70 per cent loss of marketable yield. Bt brinjal has been in development since 2000 and passed through India's mandatory biosecurity regulatory regime. It was approved by two Expert Committees, basing on which the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, considered it as safe for human consumption and the environment and that no further testing is necessary and accordingly approved Bt brinjal for commercialization, in October 2009.

Over-riding the statutory body's decision, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Government of India, went into a process of public consultation and on February 9, 2010, imposed a moratorium of an unspecified period, citing public concerns on its safety. This decision has caused a lot of regulatory uncertainty for no valid scientific reason and retarded development programmes of genetically engineered crops in the country.

The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and the Ministers for Agriculture, Science and Technology and Human Resources voiced their concern on MoEF's decision which led to their meeting with the Prime Minister, who advised that the issue would be sorted out by the GEAC.

There have been protests from concerned scientists the world over on the irrational decision and its effects on Indian agricultural development.

We present here a submission from 540 global scientists to the Minister for Agriculture, Government of India, urging him to intervene and explore how the Indian government can reverse the moratorium and release Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation, in the interests of both the farmer and the consumer. The petition is online at http://www.petitiononline.com/brinjal1/petition.html

The list of scientists along with their comments is at http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?brinjal1

Sincerely,
Professor C. Kameswara Rao, Executive Secretary, FBAE

News in Science

Exposure and Nontarget Effects of Transgenic Bt Corn Debris in Streams
Jensen, PD, Dively, GP , Swan, CM, Lamp, WO,
Environmental Entomology, April 2010  Vol. 39, Issue: 2, p 707-714

Abstract: Corn (Zea mays L.) transformed with a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) comprises 49% of all corn in the United States. The input of senesced corn tissue expressing the Bt gene may impact stream-inhabiting invertebrates that process plant debris, especially trichopteran species related to the target group of lepidopteran pests. Our goal was to assess risk associated with transgenic corn debris entering streams. First, we show the input of corn tissue after harvest was extended over months in a stream. Second, using laboratory bioassays based on European corn borer [Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner)], we found no bioactivity of Cry1Ab protein in senesced corn tissue after 2 wk of exposure to terrestrial or aquatic environments. Third, we show that Bt near-isolines modify growth and survivorship of some species of invertebrates.

Of the four nontarget invertebrate species fed Bt near-isolines, growth of two closely related trichopterans was not negatively affected, whereas a tipulid crane fly exhibited reduced growth rates, and an isopod exhibited reduced growth and survivorship on the Cry1Ab near-isoline but not on the stacked Cry1Ab + Cry3Bb1 near-isoline. Because of lack of evidence of bioactivity of Bt after 2 wk and because of lack of nontarget effects on the stacked near-isoline, we suggest that tissue-mediated differences, and not the presence of the Cry1Ab protein, caused the different responses among the species.

Overall, our results provide evidence that adverse effects to aquatic nontarget shredders involve complex interactions arising from plant genetics and environment that cannot be ascribed to the presence of Cry1Ab proteins.

Exposure and Nontarget Effects of Transgenic Bt Corn Debris in Streams  by Jensen, PD et al.

The full article is available at http://esa.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/esa/envent/2010/00000039/00000002/art00055

Microbes thriving in salty, alkali waters containing arsenic.
Ana Belluscio Published online 2 April 2010 | Nature

Argentinean investigators have found flamingos and mysterious microbes living in an alkaline lagoon nestled inside a volcano in the Andes. The organisms, exposed to arsenic and poisonous gases, could shed light on how life began on Earth, and their hardiness to extreme conditions may hold the key to new scientific applications.

Modified Plant Clears Up Deadly Water Toxin
Justine Davies, www.Scidev.net, April 15, 2010

Plants may be a useful tool in clearing water of harmful toxins produced by blue-green algae, new research indicates. Some blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) - which grow in warm, nutrient-rich waters - produce toxins that can severely damage the liver or nervous system. The effects of the toxins range from a mild illness to rapid death. They can remain in water supplies after the algae have been killed.

A team at St George's Medical School, part of the UK-based University of London, has modified tobacco plants to secrete antibodies from the roots that then bind to microcystin-LR - the most common cyanobacteria toxin in water - rendering it harmless. "A toxin that is bound to antibodies should be easier to remove from the environment and also is likely to be less harmful," said Pascal Drake, a biotechnology researcher at St George's Centre for Infection. The antibodies could also be used in simple and cheap tests to see if toxins are present in water supplies, he said.

Tobacco plants, grown hydroponically in the lab, were chosen for the first phase of this research, reported last month (March) in The FASEB Journal, because "they are easy to work with and genetically engineer", said Drake. The next step will be to try and modify aquatic plants, which will be more suitable for large-scale treatment of water. Drake anticipated that this "wouldn't be too problematic".

'Designer' Corn Gene to Help Eyesight
Rod Smith, Stock and Land (Australia), April 20, 2010
http://sl.farmonline.com.au/

Decreasing or increasing the function of a newly discovered gene in sweet corn appears to change the amount of vitamin A content created in digestion of the corn and has significant implications for reducing blindness and mortality in children in developing nations and macular degeneration in adults in the western world, according to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.

The finding was made through a research collaboration led by Torbert Rocheford, an agronomy professor and holder of the Patterson Chair of Translational Genetics at Purdue, according to the news release. The finding involved the yellow corn that is familiar to consumers in most of the world and a dark orange corn that's popular in Asian and South American countries and in northern Italy, Purdue said.

Paper in Nature Genetics - http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v42/n4/full/ng.551.html

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