News in July 2010
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2010-08-12

General - Global

Few fishy facts found in climate report
Dutch investigation supports key warnings from the IPCC's most recent assessment.
Quirin Schiermeier
Nature 466, 170 (2010)

How much of the Netherlands lies below sea level? It seems an innocuous question — but it sparked a major review of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The investigation, commissioned by the Dutch government, focused on the contribution of Working Group II — on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability — to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report1. The Dutch report's conclusions2, released on 5 July, highlight a number of mistakes — some trivial, others more egregious — and suggest ways to minimize errors in the future. But they also confirm the IPCC report's core message: that global warming poses substantial risks to societies and ecosystems on all continents.

"By and large, the IPCC has delivered a formidable summary of the current state of knowledge," says Maarten Hajer, director of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in Bilthoven, which carried out the investigation. "It's not flawless but it is the best we have, and the best we can aim for is to further improve it."

The inquiry was triggered by widespread media coverage of two errors in the IPCC report: claims that all Himalayan glaciers might melt by 2035 (glaciologists say they are unlikely to melt so quickly) and that more than 55% of the Netherlands lies below sea level (the real figure is 26%). In April, the Dutch minister for the environment at the time, Jacqueline Cramer, commissioned the PBL to reassess the reliability of the IPCC's regional projections. The PBL then double-checked with the IPCC's coordinating lead authors all statements in relevant chapters that seemed unclear, unfounded or inconElsewhere in the IPCC report, a predicted 50–60% decrease in the productivity of anchovy fisheries was erroneously derived from an unrelated study projecting a 50–60% decrease in extreme wind and ocean turbulence. Other errors include a handful of incorrect references, table titles and typos.sistent.

World Halal Forum Facilitates Meeting of Ulama and GM Scientists
Crop Biotech Update, July 23, 2010 http://www.isaaa.org/kc/

The recently concluded World Halal Forum 2010 (WHF) http://www.worldhalalforum.org/ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia had a half-day session on "Genetically Modified Crops and Halal" which brought ulama and GM scientists together to discuss the permissibility of GM foods in the context of Islam. This issue commands serious attention as Islam places much importance to the way food is prepared and its origin. The session was attended by a number of prominent scientists, shariah experts from around the world, and members of the academe. The topics discussed were GM technology, its impact, the global status, benefits to developing countries, safety issues, and Islam's perspective of GM technology.

After much deliberation, the experts and participants concluded that GM crops and products from halal origin that have undergone food and environmental safety tests are acceptable in the Islamic world as halal, there is need to strengthen awareness on biotechnology to enable decision-making, and the involvement of ulama in discussions related to biotechnology should be enhanced.

Test Guidelines for testing chemicals
OECD Environment, Health and Safety News - No. 25 - 01/07/2010
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/25/45575159.pdf

The Test Guidelines Programme develops Test Guidelines and related documents needed to undertake the first step in chemical regulation – testing for health and environmental hazards.

Books & Articles

OECD Newsletter Biotechnology Update
Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology (ICGB)
No. 20, 7 July 2010

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

The contents of this newsletter have been provided by those members of the OECD secretariat who are responsible for the various activities. The secretariat can be contacted via the e-mail address: icgb@oecd.org. Alternatively, individuals can be contacted via e-mail using the form firstname.lastname@oecd.org.

OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2010
The OECD/FAO's projections for production, consumption, trade, stocks, and prices of major agricultural commodities for the 2010 to 2019 period.

Now available from the Online Bookshop.

The 20-year environmental safety record of GM trees
Christian Walter1, Matthias Fladung2 & Wout Boerjan3
1. Scion Biomaterials, Rotorua, New Zealand.
2. vTI, Institute for Forest Genetics, D-22927 Grosshansdorf, Germany.
3. Department of Plant Systems, VIB and the Department of Plant Biotechnology and Genetics, Technologiepark 927, 9052 Ghent University, Gent. Belgium.
Nature Biotechnology 28, 656 - 658 (2010)
doi:10.1038/nbt0710-656

In a commentary last May, Strauss et al.1 pointed out that opposition to genetically modified (GM) organisms has recently intensified on GM trees and that recommendations of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have encouraged regulatory impediments to undertaking field research. We concur with Strauss et al.

Safety Assessment of Nonbrowning Potatoes: opening the discussion about the relevance of substantial equivalence on next generation biotech crops
Briardo Llorente et al., Plant Biotechnology Journal,  Blackwell Publishing Ltd 21 May 2010 galonso@dna.uba.ar
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123455471/abstract

It is expected that the next generation of biotech crops displaying enhanced quality traits with benefits to both farmers and consumers will have a better acceptance than first generation biotech crops and will improve public perception of genetic engineering. This will only be true if they are proven to be as safe as traditionally bred crops. In contrast with the first generation of biotech crops where only a single trait is modified, the next generation of biotech crops will add a new level of complexity inherent to the mechanisms underlying their output traits.

In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of the comparative safety approach on a quality-improved biotech crop with metabolic modifications is presented. Three genetically engineered potato lines with silenced polyphenol oxidase (Ppo) transcripts and reduced tuber browning were characterized at both physiological and molecular levels and showed to be equivalent to wild-type (WT) plants when yield-associated traits and photosynthesis were evaluated. Analysis of the primary metabolism revealed several unintended metabolic modifications in the engineered tubers, providing evidence for potential compositional inequivalence between transgenic lines and WT controls. The silencing construct sequence was in silico analysed for potential allergenic cross-reactivity, and no similarities to known allergenic proteins were identified. Moreover, in vivo intake safety evaluation showed no adverse effects in physiological parameters.

Taken together, these results provide the first evidence supporting that the safety of next generation biotech crops can be properly assessed following the current evaluation criterion, even if the transgenic and WT crops are not substantially equivalent.

Global Envision
http://www.globalenvision.org/

This website is dedicated to increasing awareness of two of the defining trends of our time - the spread of more open markets and the global fight against poverty.

The immense forces of globalization are changing the lives of hundreds of millions of people. But what do they really mean for the day-to-day life of a farmer in Honduras, a factory worker in Indonesia, or a small-business owner in Nigeria? And how do we, as humanitarian-aid workers and as people of goodwill across the world, marshal the forces of globalization to help lift millions out of poverty?

At Mercy Corps, we take an entrepreneurial approach to solving seemingly intractable problems - constantly identifying, nurturing and testing new ideas. We don't pretend to have all the answers. But we do know that asking the right questions is the only way to ensure that the poor don't get left behind during this fundamental shift in the global economy.

Low-Level Presence of New GM Crops: An Issue on the Rise for Countries Where They Lack Approval
Alexander J. Stein and Emilio Rodríguez-Cerezo. AgBioForum, 13(2), 173-182.
Full paper at http://www.agbioforum.org/v13n2/v13n2a08-cerezo.htm

This study addresses a new issue in the commercialization of GM crops, namely the occurrence of traces-or "low-level presence" (LLP)-of nationally unapproved GM material in crop imports. The commercialization of GM crops is a regulated activity, and countries have different authorization procedures. Hence, new GM crops are not approved simultaneously. This "asynchronous approval" (AA), in combination with a "zero-tolerance" policy towards LLP, is of growing concern for its potential economic impact on international trade.

To forecast the future evolution of this issue, we compiled a global pipeline of GM crops that may be commercialized by 2015. This pipeline is analyzed by crop and likely LLP scenarios are discussed. While currently there are about 30 commercial GM crops with different transgenic events worldwide, it is expected that by 2015 there will be more than 120. Given that problems of LLP have already occurred with the 30 current events, these issues are likely to intensify when more events become available in more countries.  (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies )

Nature Biotechnology 28, 633 (2010)
Genetic testing clamp down p633
Malorye Allison

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told five genetic test manufacturers that their products need the agency's blessing before they can be sold to consumers. On June 10th, the agency sent letters to Illumina, of San Diego, Pathway Genomics also of San Diego, NaviGenics, 23andMe and deCODE Genetics, of Reykjavik, Iceland, explaining that their genetic tests are considered medical devices and must be approved.

Industrial biotech to boom? p635
Daniel Grushkin

In the next 20 years industrial biotech will surge, according to a new analysis of The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report, entitled The Bioeconomy to 2030, forecasts that biotech will grow from the current 0.

The 20-year Environmental Safety Record of GM Trees
Christian Walter, Matthias Fladung & Wout Boerjan, Nature Biotechnology, v. 28, p 656-658, July 2010

To the Editor: In a commentary last May, Strauss et al. pointed out that opposition to genetically modified (GM) organisms has recently intensified on GM trees and that recommendations of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have encouraged regulatory impediments to undertaking field research. We concur with Strauss et al. that the CBD appears to be increasingly targeted by activist groups whose opinions are in stark contrast to the scientific consensus and indeed the opinions of most respected scientific and environmental organizations worldwide.

GM Crops Will Help Feed the World
Shane Morris, Irish Examiner, July 7, 2010
http://examiner.ie

Grace Maher's letter on genetically modified (GM) crops (June 24) is a great example of disinformation. She uses a non-peer reviewed, highly inaccurate report published by an anti-GM lobby group from which she cherrypicks the data.

In fact, the report in question is not only missing key US Department of Agriculture data but actually does admit the fact there have been real pesticide reductions from certain types of GM crops with real savings to farmers (as outlined in Sheridan, C, Nature Biotechnology, February 2010, Volume 28, No 2, page 112).

The point Ms Maher ignores is that GM is simply a technology and, as such, can be applied to addressing a wide range of problems with varying degrees of success.

The success of GM applications in agriculture will depend not only on the nature of the applications but also on local conditions and local issues. For example, a GM soya variety with clear environmental no-till benefits in the US mid-west (92% of all soya grown in the US is now GM) might be useless in a sub-Saharan country.

GM is no silver bullet solution to the problem of food security, but it can be a powerful component of a sustainable solution. Why then would Grace Maher throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater?

Hunger Atlas Takes A New Look At An Old Problem
http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/10/0706hunger.html

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - World hunger is often seen as the result of overpopulation, bad geography or natural or human-made disasters. But a new book, "The Atlas of World Hunger," reveals that the contours and causes of hunger are more complex - and in some ways more easily addressed - than those old assumptions suggest.

Its authors, University of Illinois geography professor Thomas Bassett and Illinois agricultural and consumer economics professor Alex Winter-Nelson, developed a new method for assessing hunger. Their Hunger Vulnerability Index (HVI) locates the hungry as well as those at risk of falling into hunger.

Benefits of Biotechnology: Scientific Assessments of Agricultural Biotechnology's Role in a Safer, Healthier World
Download at http://www.soyconnection.com/soybean_oil/benefits_of_biotechnology.php

The full report from The United Soybean Board is available in 13 languages and the abridged report is available in 11 languages. You may download high- and low-resolution formats. Examining available research, the scientific assessment demonstrates that biotechnology has the power to increase human health, environmental sustainability and the well-being of consumers and farm communities globally.

Yield Benefit and Underlying Cost of Insect-Resistance Transgenic Rice:
Implication in Breeding and Deploying Transgenic Crops
Hui Xiaa et al., Field Crops Research,  v.118, Issue 3, September 10, 2010, Pages 215-220

The rapid development of transgenic biotechnology has greatly promoted the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops including the insect-resistant crops worldwide. Apart from the enormous yield benefits brought by the GM crops, the cryptic fitness cost associated with transgenes has also been detected under experimental conditions although it is considered to be rare.

To estimate the yield benefit and cost of insect-resistant GM rice, we studied field performances of three insect-resistant GM rice lines, involving their non-GM parental variety as comparison. Great benefits as estimated by the yield-related traits were observed in the GM rice lines when high insect pressure was recorded, but a cryptic yield loss was detected when the level of insect pressure was extremely low. Given the fact that cryptic yield loss presented in the GM rice lines under the low insect pressure, a strategic field deployment should be required when insect-resistant GM rice are commercialized to circumvent the unnecessary yield losses. This is probably true for other insect-resistant GM crops. Effective biotechnology and breeding measures are also needed to particularly minimize the potential underlying cost of an insect-resistance transgene before commercial production of the GM crops.

Full paper at http://www.sciencedirect.com

Food Politics - What Everyone Needs to Know
- by Robert Paarlberg, pp. 218 (Oxford Press, 2010).
Reviewed by Prof. Drew L. Kershen, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law; University of Oklahoma; www.dkershen-at-ou.edu

Food Politics - What Everyone Needs to Know is focused, as the name states, on food politics which means a heavy dose of discussion of agriculture, agricultural development, food safety, food marketing, agribusiness, etc.  One chapter has the title "Organic and Local Food;" another chapter, "Food Safety and Genetically Engineered Food."  Each chapter contains questions about the chapter topic and a discussion (answer) to the questions.

The book is clearly written, moderate and thoughtful in tone, accurate and careful in its data and arguments.  The book shows clearly the breadth of Rob's knowledge and the depth of Rob's insights about food politics,  The book is excellent in providing information and perspective about many contentious issues.  Readers will learn a great deal from Rob's calm, thoughtful, worthwhile questions and answers.

The book also reads very easily and presents its questions and answers in language that can be understood by all without being condescending.  I enjoyed reading the book and I highly recommend it to others.

Science and Food Security
Dr. Krishna Dronamraju, AgBioView, July 22, 2010 (President, Foundation for Genetic Research, USA  - KDronamraj@aol.com)

Review of book: Science and Sustainable Food Security By M.S. Swaminathan, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, Chennai, London and New Jersey, 2010

Anyone who followed the progress of agriculture in India during the last fifty years should be very familiar with the name of Prof. M.S. Swaminathan and the distinguished service performed by him. Indeed, he is also known widely as the "Father of Green Revolution" in India and abroad. His name is synonymous with the history of agriculture and food production in India.

He was one of three people from India included in TIME Magazine's 1999 list of the "20 most influential Asian people of the 20th century", the other two being Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Only a few are mentioned here: UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize Laureate for outstanding contributions to the protection and management of the environment. Co - winner with Paul and Anne Ehrlich 1994 prize. The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Honda Prize, for achieving outstanding results in the field of ecotechnology, 1991, Padma Vibhushan 1989 World Food Prize for advancing human development through increased quantity, quality or accessibility of food, 1987 , Golden Heart Presidential Award of the Philippines, conferred by President Corazon Aquino , Albert Einstein World Science Award by the World Cultural Council for research which has brought true benefit and well being, Norman Borlaug Award, given by Coromandel Fertilizers in profound appreciation of his catalytic role in providing deep insights and inspiring fellow scientists to set goals ... for evolving a strategy for agriculture rooted in science, but tempered by a concern for ecology and human values, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership 1971. He holds 58 honorary Doctorate degrees from universities around the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and a Foreign Associate of many academies of the world including those of the United States.

The Adoption and Diffusion of GM Crops In United States: A Real Option Approach
Scandizzo, P.L., & Savastano, S. (2010). AgBioForum, 13(2), 142-157. 
Full paper at http://www.agbioforum.org/v13n2/v13n2a06-savastano.htm

The article aims at modelling adoption and diffusion decisions of farmers towards genetically modified crops under a real option framework. Modern GM crops help farmers to resolve two main sources of uncertainty: output uncertainty and input uncertainty. Those crops represent a revolutionary form of farming compared to the technology adoption studied in the literature in the late '70s and early '80s. The article develops a theoretical model of adoption and diffusion of new GM crops under uncertainty and irreversibility. We test our theoretical predictions using data from 2000 to 2008 of a panel dataset constructed for 13 US states involved in the production of four different GM crops.

These conclusions may appear to contradict the general perception of a delayed penetration for the GM crops, whose success seems to be retarded by lack of information, mistrust, and an exaggerated perception of risks. GM crops tend to be invasive, in that their short-term profitability is so high as compared with the investment needed, that once the hump of uncertainty is overcome, they operate a veritable takeover of agriculture. (University of Rome "Tor Vergata")

Plant immunity: towards an integrated view of plant–pathogen interactions
Nature Reviews Genetics 11, 539-548 (August 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrg2812
Peter N. Dodds1 & John P. Rathjen2  About the authors

Abstract

Plants are engaged in a continuous co-evolutionary struggle for dominance with their pathogens. The outcomes of these interactions are of particular importance to human activities, as they can have dramatic effects on agricultural systems. The recent convergence of molecular studies of plant immunity and pathogen infection strategies is revealing an integrated picture of the plant–pathogen interaction from the perspective of both organisms. Plants have an amazing capacity to recognize pathogens through strategies involving both conserved and variable pathogen elicitors, and pathogens manipulate the defence response through secretion of virulence effector molecules. These insights suggest novel biotechnological approaches to crop protection.

Events

6th Conference on Recombinant Protein Production:
A comparative view on host physiology to be held in: Vienna, Austria, 16.-19. February 2011.

If you have any question, please contact us at:www.rpp2011@boku.ac.at

For more information, please visit the website: www.rpp2011.at

14th International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition
Biotechnology for the Sustainability of Human Society
14-18 September 2010, Palacongressi, Rimini – Italy

Europe - EU

GMOs: Member States to be Given Full Responsibility on Cultivation In Their Territories
European Commission, Belgium. July 13, 2010. http://europa.eu

Today the Commission proposed to confer to Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on part or all of their territory. While keeping unchanged the EU's science-based GM authorisation system, the adopted package consists of a Communication, a new Recommendation on co-existence of GM crops with conventional and/or organic crops and a draft Regulation proposing a change to the GMO legislation.

Commenting on the proposal, EuropaBio Secretary General, Nathalie Moll, said: "EuropaBio recognised President Barroso's commitment early on to develop a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and we were also encouraged by the Commission's goal of embracing responsible European innovation across all sectors. Furthermore, we appreciated the vision put forward by the Commission of enabling the EU member states to move forward on the issue of GM crop cultivation at their own pace. Central to this vision must be permitting those member states and their farmers who wish to embrace the benefits of GM crops the freedom to do so." Consequently, industry is disappointed that today's proposal does not appear to provide a means of delivering this vision in that it disables rather than enables the application of beneficial and rigorously tested agricultural biotech products and technologies. We strongly believe that for the proposal to be workable it must be science-based, proportionate in its recommendations and non-discriminatory to those farmers that wish to choose to grow the crops that work best for them. Without due respect for these fundamental principles, the resulting policy will be detrimental to the overall sustainability and success of the European agricultural sector as a whole.

The European Coexistence Bureau (ECoB) develops together with Member States best practices for co-existence, which take into consideration that Member States need flexibility to take account of their local and regional conditions.

For more information on ECoB: http://ecob.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

EU Effort to End GM Crop Deadlock Meets Resistance
Christian Spillman, AFP, July 13, 2010

BRUSSELS - The European Commission sought Tuesday to end a deadlock blocking the growth of genetically modified crops in Europe, proposing to give countries the freedom to ban the controversial foods. But the proposal drew immediate protests on both sides of the issue amid deep divisions in Europe over the safety of such food.

But French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the proposal was "not acceptable" because it did not address the need to improve the authorisation process. "They have proposed a swap, that is not going to work," Borloo told AFP.

The Green bloc in the European parliament described the proposal as a "dubious bargain" and warning that GM crops posed a contamination threat to other plants. Green EU lawmaker Martin Haeusling said: "The Commission has not been able to overcome the opposition of the member states to GMOs over the years and wants now to trick them into accepting quicker authorisations."

Opponents of GM food fear they would inevitably contaminate other crops and maintain that is no definitive evidence of their safety. Supporters argue that such crops have higher yields, resist pests and disease better and require less fertiliser and pesticide. They say farmers should be given the freedom to choose whether they want to plant GM crops.

Does Consumer Scepticism Cloud the GM Debate?
Ben Cooper, Just Food, July 21, 2010
http://www.just-food.com/

It is somewhat typical of the GM debate that the recent announcement by the European Commission regarding national jurisdiction over the issue appears to have pleased absolutely no one. The European biotech industry association, Europabio, said it was "disappointed" and on the other side of the debate, campaigners at Friends of the Earth were just as dissatisfied.

It has been observed by GM advocates that billions of meals with GM content have already been consumed with no ill-effects. While that is enough to convince some, many people remain deeply sceptical.

But why in an age where science appears continually to provide solutions that can sustain us, where we now instinctively turn to science for those answers, do we have such an impasse with GM?

At the heart of the intractability of this issue is public confidence. In spite of the safeguards we put in place, new technologies all carry some element of risk or the possibility that while no overt risk has been identified an unforeseen negative impact may emerge in the future. Science simply cannot give a blanket guarantee.

Scientists and politicians have to weigh those risks against the benefits and the risks represented by the alternatives to the technological solution. So GM advocates argue about the risks of continued pesticide use, about how GM technology can develop crops that need less irrigation, and naturally about the overall food security issue.

In the face of public scepticism, and with the constant risk of extremely negative media coverage, the food industry seems to keep a fairly low profile on the issue.

Retailers, always keen to show themselves to be acutely in tune with their shoppers, in some cases look to make PR capital by taking relatively strong positions against GM, which are arguably out of step with the actual level of risk associated with the technology.

For instance, Tesco says: "Our policy on genetically modified (GM) foods is based on what you, our customers, have told us you want. And our research shows that UK customers don't want GM foods in our stores. So naturally we don't have any own-brand GM foods on our shelves and all of our organic animals are reared using non-GM feed."

The supermarkets' policies are by their own admission not dictated by science but reflect public sentiment. In a statement, Sainsbury's specifically says "whilst the latest scientific research and current Government advice is that GM ingredients do not present any risks to human health, we acknowledge the concerns of our customers and do not permit the use of GM crops, ingredients, additives or derivatives in any Sainsbury's own label food, drink, pet food, dietary supplements or floral products".

In relation to the potential benefit the food industry could reap from GM, its reticence to take a stronger position is at first surprising but yet one when considers the reputational problems completely understandable. The heavy lifting in advocacy terms is left to the GM companies and industry groups themselves. And biotechnology companies do not win corporate popularity contests.

In one sense it is reassuring that the uncertain public sentiment around GM, which could be characterised variously as fear, doubt, uncertainty, agnosticism and frustration, appears to be reflected in the Commission's recent decision. In essence, we are not sure about GM, so we end up with unsatisfactory legislation.

However, in situations where the public appears simply not to know what to do, there is arguably an onus on governments to lead. By the same token, where prevailing public opinion is seen as misinformed or ill-judged, governments have a responsibility to veer away from populism.

However, the new proposal makes it possible to member governments to take an anti-GM position if consumer sentiment against GM runs high. So in terms of addressing the potentially distorting effect of what could be disproportionate consumer anxiety over this issue, we appear to be right back where we started.

ERAB (European Research Area Board) 10 key recommendations
http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/index_en.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/research/erab/publications_en.html

Speaking at the ERAB conference in Seville on 6-7 May 2010, the Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn challenged ERAB members and participants to provide her with 10 concrete and urgent actions focused on how to optimise Europe's research, innovation and science base with the aim to address society's Grand Challenges and prepare Europe's post-crisis smart, green economy and society.

Proposal for a Commission Recommendation on a Joint Programming initiative on "Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change"
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=citizen_summaries

Agriculture and forestry are highly exposed to climate change since they directly depend on climatic conditions. Global demand for food is expected to increase by 50% by 2030 and to double by 2050 with world’s population projected to reach 9 billion. Food supply must increase sustainably to meet this demand, and is made more complicated by climate change.

Catalogue of FP7 projects 2007 - 2010
[http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index_en.cfm?pg=publications]

This 325-page document includes all the projects which have so far been funded under the Environment (including climate change) theme in FP7 (2007-2010), presenting them according to key research areas.

Online survey launched about the Seventh Framework Programme
[http://ec.europa.eu/research/consultations/fp7/consultation_en.htm]

This open consultation is part of the Interim Evaluation of FP7 which is a major exercise to examine progress and provide recommendations to help both the implementation of FP7 as well as contributing ideas for the possible next Framework Programme.

Please give us your opinion by taking part in this consultation!

Publication: COST - Cooperation in Science and Technology - FP7 Mid Term Evaluation report
[http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/result_en.cfm?cat=4&src=3&y=2010]

This report has been written by a Panel of independent experts from January to May 2010. The mandate for this evaluation was to ascertain whether the recommendations of the FP6 Evaluation of COST (Monfret, 2006) and the Evaluation Summary Report for the FP7 grant agreement between the ESF and the Commission have been implemented.

Europe

Italian GM rebels
Anna Meldolesi
Nature Biotechnology 28, 638 (2010)
doi:10.1038/nbt0710-638

Libertarian farmer Giorgio Fidenato and former journalist, Leonardo Facco, have sown six genetically modified seeds in an act of civil disobedience. Fidenato, who grows conventional corn, is one of a few hundred farmers wanting to plant genetically modified crops in Italy.

Joint Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese delegation calls for fairer access to GM Crops and technologies
http://www.europabio.org/PressReleases/general/PR_2010-07-12_Event_Spain_Romania_Portugal.pdf
Brussels, 12 July 2010

Today and tomorrow a delegation of Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese farmers and farming associations meet in Brussels to demand fairer access to the agricultural biotech products and technologies available to their global competitors.

The group has come to Europe’s capital to highlight the extent to which the EU is disadvantaging its farmers and its agricultural sector in general in terms of producing more food more sustainably, using fewer resources. They are calling for science-based decision making, better access to EFSA approved GM crops and food and feed as well as workable coexistence measures that do not discriminate against those farmers that wish to grow GM crops.

Speaking at the event, Dan Botanoiu Executive Manager of the Romanian National Farmer’s Federation said: “Before accession to the EU, Romania was producing €150 million worth of GM Soy. Since Europe has not approved cultivation of this crop, when we joined the Union we immediately lost this income. As a result we are now importing 500,000 tonnes of soy from South America each year just to meet our domestic needs. The net result is we loose our own income and we have to find the finances to buy-in what we used to produce, with the finances going to our competitors in the Americas. In our view this is completely unnecessary and unsustainable”.

Irish Department of Agriculture's new report Food Harvest 2020
Ireland's Department of Agriculture's new report Food Harvest 2020  http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/agri-foodindustry/agri-foodindustrypublications/2020Food%20harvest190710.pdf

Two references to GM;

pg. 50: "Teagasc should continue to provide an impartial research programme on the issues of GM crop cultivation to policy makers, tillage farmers, and the general public, in order that Ireland can engage in scientific discussions on new crop technologies and be to the forefront of technology should EU policy on GM crop cultivation alter and broader acceptance of the merits of GM technology emerge."

pg. 20 "With the aim of ensuring the competitiveness and viability of Irish production, DAFF should monitor and appraise policy, trade and commercial developments at EU and other relevant levels with respect to the use of existing and emerging technologies in areas such as biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."

Innovation Europe - BIO Innovation 2010
The key to growth in Europe is innovation. By promoting partnerships and co-operation within Europe, Innovation Europe is driving improvements in knowledge transfer and cross-border collaboration, and is helping to bridge the gap between research and development. Innovation Europe promotes an environment where academia, research and business can collaborate in order to accelerate the innovation process and gain the global competitive advantage for Europe."

http://www.europabio.org/daily_9xs2ob6ytwgm/1007-July2010/Innovation%20Europe/Bio%20Innovation%20EuropaBio%20Extract%201.pdf

High-Level Expert Group put biotechnology on top
15.07.10 Brussels – European Biotech lobby group EuropaBio has welcomed the inauguration of the EU’s new High-Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies (KET) that will be advising the European Commission. Industrial biotechnology has been selected at the European Commission to be one of the five Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) that will be developed with high priority within the Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy. Chemical conversion aided by bacterial and enzymatic processes promises to prove exceptionally important in the EU’s shift towards a sustainable, low carbon, knowledge-based economy. Dr. Andre Koltermann, Vice President of Süd-Chemie and EuropaBio representative on the High Level Expert Group, said: “We need to take a more strategic approach towards deploying promising innovation in the field of biotechnology. We will need regulatory courage and commitment towards securing the funding of pilot and demonstration plants as well as ‘first-of-their-kind’ production plants.” The EU is already funding these so-called biorefineries to the tune of 70 million euros. Germany recently took the lead with a 50 million-euro investment in a so-called lignocellulosic biorefinery, where companies can bring biotech processes from lab- to pilot scale – a prerequisite for biotech conversion to industrial scale. Lignocellulosic ethanol is being discussed as a promising platform chemical for ethylene production. The building block for the mass plastic polyethylene is currently produced using petrochemical feeds. Lignocellulose, on the other hand, is ten times cheaper than crude oil.

http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu/service/start-page/top-news/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=12440&cHash=858e4f1c52

National GMO bans – industry against dilution of GMO labeling threshold
13.07.10 Brussels/Frankfurt – Agrobiotech companies have warned against the implementation of national GMO bans on the basis of new guidelines that favour thresholds below the EU labelling threshold of 0.9% GMO admixtures. A position paper sent to decision makers by the German biotech association DIB warns that any measure allowing EU member states or regions to establish thresholds for GMO admixtures below the official EU GMO labelling threshold of 0.9% will create a situation of permanent legal uncertainty for farmers wanting to cultivate biotech crops. On 13 July, the Commission is expected to replace the current coexistence guidelines (2003/556/EC) with legally non-binding recommendations that allow member states to prohibit cultivation by giving them the right to establish measures to achieve “the lowest possible presence of GMOs” in organic and other crops. Legal experts claim that this approach to coexistence may be “without legal basis” because EU law clearly states that products must only be labelled if above the 0.9% threshold. According to Ricardo Gent from the DIB, such rules would discriminate against farmers who want to plant GMOs.

The Commission hopes to end the GMO deadlock with the new rules http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu/service/start-page/top-news/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=12414&cHash=a8e43afabb.

GM Move Branded 'Dangerous Precedent' by NFU
Meat Trades Journal (UK), July 15, 2010

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has branded the European Commission's decision to let individual member states decide GM policy a 'dangerous precedent' as it threatens farmer choice.

Despite the move by the Commission to allow member states to choose if they want to allow the growing of GM crops, the NFU is worried that the announcement will also allow some countries to restrict or ban GM crop cultivation completely.

The NFU added it wanted to see an inclusive and transparent proposal for the future authorisation of GM crops that enables farmers and growers to have the choice of accessing the very best technologies available to their competitors across the world.

Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: "Instead of giving reassurances to support an effective and rigorous authorisation process for GM across the EU, this proposal is all about enabling countries to ban the growing of GM crops.

"The NFU represents all methods of farming and growing and has always believed that any GM legislation should be based around sound science, rather than politics or emotional rhetoric. Ultimately, the market will decide if British growers use the technology. "Effective coexistence is essential for farmers to make the choice between organic, conventional and GM. But the approach announced will cause serious problems with the internal market."

Peter Mandelson: Prince Charles's Remarks on GM Crops 'Irresponsible'
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian UK), July 15, 201

Tony Blair asked Mandelson to tell royal to stop 'unhelpful' attempts to influence government policy, according to memoirs.

Tony Blair asked Peter Mandelson to tell the Prince of Wales to stop his "unhelpful" attempts to influence government policy on genetically modified crops.

In a sign of the private irritation among ministers at the prince's interference over the years, Mandelson accuses him of being "anti-scientific and irresponsible", in the third instalment of his memoirs. Mandelson writes that he regularly received representations from Prince Charles, who has been writing to ministers for more than 20 years.

"Interested as he was in issues from architecture to agriculture, after Diana's death Charles would write me notes about areas of public policy which he believed to be misguided," Mandelson writes.

He continues: "I would always answer and of course pass on his views to Tony. At times I would be the carrier of messages in the other direction, for example when Charles began publicly to speak out against genetically modified crops ...

Like Tony, I felt his remarks were becoming unhelpful. I thought they were anti-scientific and irresponsible in the light of food shortages in the developing world." He adds: "I am sure Charles did not change his mind as a result of our conversation, but he did tone down his public interventions on the subject."

Africa

Food for Thought on GM Crops
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Project Syndicate, 2010, July 2, 2010
http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/pinstrupandersen2/English

COPENHAGEN - As the world debates a new climate-change treaty, drought continues in Kenya. Maize plants wither, hitting poor rural families the hardest. People are starving, and many of those who survive are grossly malnourished.

There is hope: next year, the Kenyan authorities will begin testing maize varieties that they hope will provide high yields and prove more resistant to drought. But why did farmers in Kenya and other African countries not have access to drought-resistant crop varieties before catastrophe struck?

One reason is that such crops rely on research tools used in molecular biology, including genetic engineering. African governments have been told that genetic engineering is dangerous, with many Europeans and their national governments - as well as transnational NGOs such as Greenpeace - determined to stay away from it.

Unfortunately, Kenya's government listened and did not permit their farmers to grow genetically modified (GM) maize, even though it has been approved, sown, harvested, and eaten by both humans and animals in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, the United States, and other countries for many years. Although Kenya has a well-functioning and well-funded agricultural research system, the government has not even permitted field tests of GM crop varieties.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen is Professor of Food, Nutrition, and Public Policy at Cornell University and Professor of Development Economics at Copenhagen University, Denmark.

India

Bt Cotton in India: A Country Profile
ISAAA, July 12, 2010

Bt Cotton in India: A Country Profile is the first volume in a new series of publications called "Biotech Crop Profiles" which will feature comprehensive overviews of the adoption, impact and future prospects of biotech crops in developing countries. The series is produced by researchers of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Bt Cotton in India: A Country Profile critically analyzes the adoption and impact of Bt cotton in India from 2002 to 2009. The volume is a user-friendly, comprehensive and rich source of information on Bt cotton in India - the first biotech cotton crop to be approved in India in 2002.  It includes the most relevant authoritative statistics and references on Bt cotton in India, including hectarage of Bt cotton hybrids, numbers of Bt cotton farmers, and a chronology of approved Bt cotton events.

The volume also summarizes the impact of Bt cotton in India at the national and farm-level during the eight year period of commercializa tion taking into account the 11 independent studies conducted by public institutions during that period. It is excerpted from the "Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2009", ISAAA Brief 41, authored by Dr. Clive James.

The volume hopes to share the rich knowledge and experience with Bt cotton in India more widely with the scientific community in the country and also with global society. This will facilitate a more informed and transparent discussion about the contribution and potential role of Bt cotton in the agriculture sector in India and other countries, and particularly Bt cotton's contribution to a more sustainable agriculture.

Download a copy of the publication at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/biotech_crop_profiles/bt_cotton_in_india-a_country_profile/download/default.asp

America

NATURE | EDITORIAL
Brazil's biotech boom
Nature Volume: 466, Page: 295 (15 July 2010)

Ten years ago, Brazilian bioscience was transformed by a bold initiative. Scientists and the government must develop and extend the progress that has resulted

Other

Will Science-Phobia Kill the Green Revolution?
Jon Entine,  Huffington Post, July 23, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-entine/will-science-phobia-kill_b_656066.html

One only has to look to the hunger crisis in Haiti to see how the debate over innovation and technology in agriculture has degenerated into a cartoon discourse.

In early May, two shipments -- 135 tons -- of hybrid varieties of corn, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, spinach, tomato and watermelon seeds began arriving in Haiti. It was the first installment of 60,000 seed sacks -- more than $4 million worth -- of high-yielding hybrid corn and vegetable seeds donated after months of careful negotiations with government and international agricultural experts.

To say the donations are desperately needed is an understatement. According to the UN, every year 38,000 Haitian children, one out of three, die of malnutrition, and more than half of the country's inhabitants survive on $1 per day. But to some advocacy groups in the United States and Europe, the charity was a nefarious capitalist plot.

The Haitian protesters, who were directed out of the Peasant Movement of Papaye headquarters in New York City offer one vision. They promote a "sustainable" solution based on organic techniques. The organization works hand-in-glove with Greenpeace, the Organic Consumers Association, and other interest groups, which stand steadfast against any technology that can jump yields.

As they see it, the donations are a Trojan horse to migrate farmers from organic agriculture -- which has been a disaster in the face of persistent drought -- to "industrial" farming techniques. Haiti's agricultural problems, they claim, are not homegrown but foreign imposed. They are the result of "US trade and aid policies that led to the destruction of Haiti's capacity to feed itself," charged the Institute for Policy Studies early in July in an open letter to Monsanto, which donated the seeds. The St. Louis-based firm, they claim, is Darth Vader, "a charter member of the industrial-agricultural complex," and the seeds represent "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity."

--Jon Entine, a columnist for Ethical Corporation magazine and CEO of ESG MediaMetrics, a sustainability consultancy, is the author/editor of "Crop Chemophobia: Will Precaution Kill the Green Revolution", to be published this November by AEI Press.

News in Science

Ambitious GM Rice Project Enters Next Phase
Rhiannon Smith, Scidev.net, July 1, 2010

An international consortium aiming to re-engineer rice to increase yields by 50 per cent is about to move into the second phase of its decades-long project. The project aims to genetically modify rice to use a more efficient method of photosynthesis - the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates needed for growth.

Rice has a type of photosynthesis called C3. But some plants, including maize and sorghum, have evolved to use a type called C4. The C4 crops are anatomically different from C3s and are better at concentrating carbon dioxide around a particular enzyme - RuBisCO - which is crucial in photosynthesis.

If the scientists are successful in creating rice that follows the C4 pathway the crop could produce 50 per cent more grain, and would require less water and fertiliser.

Energy Crops Growing On Seawater
Ceres,Inc.  June 30, 2010 http://www.ceres.net/

Ceres Salt-Tolerant Trait Could Unlock Millions More Acres of Marginal Cropland

Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. announced today that it has developed a plant trait that could bring new life to millions of acres of abandoned or marginal cropland damaged by salts. Results in several crops, including switchgrass, have shown levels of salt tolerance not seen before.

Flower power determines win or lose verdict
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_10_07_02_en.html&item=&artid=17013

New research has revealed that the so-called Flower (Fwe) protein has the power to mark weak cells for eradication, allowing fitter cells to remain and flourish. Fwe, a cell membrane protein present in multicellular animals, has authority during cell competition to deem some cells 'winners' and others 'losers'. Results from the study, which was partly funded by the European Research Council (ERC), are published in the journal Developmental Cell.

Virus-resistant Cassava Could be Available by 2015
Lucas Laursen, Scidev.net, July 9. 2010  Cassava breeds that are resistant to two major viruses could soon be available to farmers in Africa. Cassava mosaic disease and brown streak disease stunt the growth and rot the roots of crops, respectively.

Mosaic disease alone destroys an estimated 35 million tonnes of African cassava a year - the difference between needing to import food into Africa and achieving food independence, according to researchers at the US-based Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The team conducted field trials in Uganda that have shown that genetically engineered (GE) tobacco plants resist mosaic disease. Their results will appear in Molecular Plant Pathology next month (August), Claude Fauquet, lead author of the study and director of cassava research at the centre, told SciDev.Net.

Unexpected roles for core promoter recognition factors in cell-type-specific transcription and gene regulation
James A. Goodrich1 & Robert Tjian2  About the authors
Nature Reviews Genetics 11, 549-558 (August 2010) |

Abstract

The eukaryotic core promoter recognition complex was generally thought to play an essential but passive role in the regulation of gene expression. However, recent evidence now indicates that core promoter recognition complexes together with 'non-prototypical' subunits may have a vital regulatory function in driving cell-specific programmes of transcription during development. Furthermore, new roles for components of these complexes have been identified beyond development; for example, in mediating interactions with chromatin and in maintaining active gene expression across cell divisions.

Glowing Crops Could Minimise Pesticide Use
Jacob Aron, Scidev.net, July 8, 2010

Farmers may one day be able to target pesticides to only those parts of their fields that are at risk of disease simply by noting which ones are glowing, according to researchers.

Scientists have genetically engineered the natural immune system of the tobacco plant to make it change colour or glow in the presence of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens known to reduce crop yields, which normally force farmers to apply costly pesticides. In laboratory tests, these 'photosensory' plants turn red or produce a fluorescent glow when infected.

Although the system has so far been tested only in tobacco plants, lead researcher Neal Stewart, a plant scientist at the US-based University of Tennessee, told SciDev.Net it could easily be adapted to other crops.

Instead of planting entire fields with these plants, he suggested they could be strategically placed throughout the field. This would introduce only a small number of GM plants into the environment, so farmers could choose not to harvest them while still benefiting from their pathogen-detecting ability. "If we know something bad is happening, the farmer can treat certain areas rather than the whole field," he said.

Toxin-free Castor Would be Major Help to Industry
Bonnie Coblentz, Mississippi Ag News, July 15, 2010
http://msucares.com/news/print/agnews/an10/100715.html

Castor oil is the highly desirable, plentiful product of castor beans. The oil is used to produce everything from cosmetics and paints to jet aircraft lubricants and certain plastics. Generations ago, it was given by the spoonful as a laxative and used as a home remedy to treat a range of maladies.

Today, castor oil still has many desirable properties. The thick oil makes up 60 percent of the seed's weight. For comparison, high oil corn or canola only produce about 25 percent oil by weight. Ninety percent of the oil is ricinoleic acid, a fatty acid found in large quantities only in castor oil. The acid has many industrial applications. Castor seed meal, not the oil, contains ricin, a toxic protein that can become fatal if untreated in the body.

Brian Baldwin, a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment station researcher in MSU's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said castor can be used as a biodiesel but is more important as an organic raw material for industrial chemical processes.

Daniel Barnes, a doctoral student in MSU's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, is trying to make it possible to grow the plant safely for commercial oil production. The project is being conducted by faculty in MSU's departments of biochemistry, plant and soil sciences and biological sciences. Others involved in the interdisciplinary team are Ken Willeford in biochemistry, and Donna Gordon and Nancy Reichert, both in biological sciences. Funding is through MSU's Sustainable Energy Research Center and the Office of Technology Commercialization.

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