News in February 2011
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2011-03-03

Books & Articles

The Seeds We Sow, Kindness That Fed A Hungry World
- A new book by Gary Beene, Sunstone Press; Paperback $17.79, December 15, 2010, pp 404; ISBN-10: 0865347883
http://www.amazon.com/Seeds-Kindness-That-Hungry-World/dp/0865347883/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1292951426&sr=1-2

The book tells the story of the intertwined lives of George Washington Carver, Vice President Henry Agard Wallace, and Nobel Laureate Norman E. Borlaug.

Report of Socioeconomics Survey and Activities for 2011-2012
CBD Socioeconomics Survey [socioeconomics.survey@cbd.int]

We are pleased to inform you that the final report of the survey is available online in English as a PDF document at: http://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/bs/mop-05/information/mop-05-inf-10-en.pdf. The report was made available to the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP) which was held in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.

Genetically modified (GM) trees
are being developed since 1986. Over 700 release trials have taken place. But how safe are transgenic trees? What are the findings to date?

The German Society for Nature Conservation (NABU) has described the long-term consequences of growing GM trees as unforeseeable for nature and the environment and refers to a study published by the Testbiotech association in December 2010.

Dr. Matthias Fladung is Director of Genome Research and Deputy Director of the Institute of Forest Genetics at the Johann-Heinrich von Thünen Institute (vTI). As part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), he is testing new methods for preventing the spread of genetically modified trees.

GMO Safety spoke to Matthias Fladung about biosafety research on GM trees. Please read the interview in more detail:

“In the discussion about genetically modified trees also the advantages should be considered” http://www.gmo-safety.eu/science/woody-plants/1283.genetically-modified-trees.html

Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis
Prof. Klaus Ammann, Ask Force, Feb 7, 2011
Full document at http://www.ask-force.org/web/AF-9-Differences-GM-non-GM-crops/AF-9-Genomic-Misconception-20110207-opensource.pdf

'The difference between GM- and non-GM-crops on the level of molecular processes has been overestimated.'The Genomic Misconception of Transgenesis is a major source of erroneous decisions in the regulation of GM crops. The difference between GM- and non-GM-crops on the level of molecular processes has been overestimated. And even more so, as soon genetic engineering has been applied to crop breeding, the misunderstandings grew out of politically motivated fear-mongering.

Signal Transduction Database
The database currently tags 72,018 individuals working in Signal Transduction
http://www.scientistdata.info/

Events

BIO-Europe Spring®
- March 14 – 16, 2011, Milan, Italy
http://www.ebdgroup.com/bes/registration/index.php

You can pre-arrange meetings with the business development teams from Abbott, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi-Sankyo, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Roche, sanofi-aventis, and more than 1,000 other companies and investors attending this year's event.

RNAi & miRNA World Congress
April 26 – 27 2011, Boston, USA.
http://www.selectbiosciences.com/conferences/RNAiWC2011/

The conference will be co-located with Advances in qPCR, Epigenetics World Congress and Next-Gen Sequencing Congress. Registered delegates will also have access to these meetings ensuring a very cost-effective trip.

Epigenetics World Congress 2011
26 - 27 April 2011, Boston, MA, USA
http://www.technologynetworks.com/Genomics/index.aspx?Login=2&redirect=/Genomics/eventsid.aspx?ID=112263

Select Biosciences will be hosting its 2nd Epigenetics World Congress on April 28-29th 2011 in Boston. Topics include chromatin remodelling, DNA methylation and silencing, imprinting and the epigentics of diseases.

BIO INNOVATION 2011 Seamless, Integrated & Innovative Biological Manufacturing
London (UK) Feb 21 - Feb 22, 2011
Contact: David Argent, GBX Summits Ltd. info@gbxsummits.com
www.bioinnovation.gb.com
BIO-Europe Spring® 2011 – International Partnering Conference
Milan (IT) Mar 14 - Mar 15, 2011

BIO-Europe Spring® is an essential event for anyone serious about partnering in the biotech industry. As the springtime counterpart of BIO-Europe, the conference encourages delegates to continue establishing and maintaining partnerships using EBD Group’s industry acclaimed approach.

Contact: Tom Voigt, EBD Group tvoigt@ebdgroup.com
www.ebdgroup.com/bes

BioVision – 7th World Life Sciences Forum
Lyon (F) Mar 27 - Mar 29, 2011

BioVision fosters dialogue between scientists, civil society, industrialists and policy makers for concrete solutions concerning major issues in Life Sciences. During two days and a half, divided into three tracks (Decision makers' perspectives, Scientific advances, Business in Science) participants will have a large panorama of the major innovations underway in life sciences; a vision of the future life sciences industry model presented and debated by 180 worldwide decision makers and experts in more than 40 sessions, 16 round tables and 4 workshops.

Contact: BioVision - Fondation Scientifique de Lyon
Phone: +33 (0)4 78 92 70 00, Fax: +33 (0)4 78 92 70 29

23nd DIA-EuroMeeting
Geneva (CH) Mar 28 - Mar 30, 2011

Europe provides a contrasting perspective to the global drug market that is not fully understood by colleagues around the world. The EuroMeeting provides a once-a-year opportunity to explain it all, for example the EU healthcare regulation, the pharmaceuticals market and drug development activities. Speakers from the EMA, the European Commission, the FDA and other regulatory agencies from European Countries and other regions of the world are invited.

Contact: DIA Drug Information Association
Phone: +41-61-225-5151, Fax: +41-61-225-5152
diaeurope@diaeurope.org
www.diaeurope.org/euromeeting2011

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing
Ontario (CDN) May 08 - May 11, 2011

The event offers unique networking opportunities, an overview of the latest technological developments, and real world scenarios for bringing technological solutions to market. The Congress features discussions of high profile topics related to climate change, sustainability, new sources of fuel, financing, and policy. The conference also offers business partnering opportunities, utilizing a computer system that assists companies and investors alike in arranging confidential one-on-one meetings with other attendees.

Contact: BIO – Biotechnology Industry Organization
www.bio.org/worldcongress/

19th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition – From Research to Industry and Markets
Berlin (GER) Jun 06 - Jun 10, 2011

For over 30 years now, the European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (European BC&E) has combined a very renowned international Scientific Conference with an Industry Exhibition. Since 2007 the Conference and Exhibition takes place every year. The European BC&E is held at different venues throughout Europe and ranks on top of the world's leading events in the Biomass sector.

This event is supported by European and international organisations such as the European Commission, UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Natural Sciences Sector, WCRE - the World Council for Renewable Energy, EUBIA - the European Biomass Industry Association.

Contact: ETA-Florence Renewable Energies
biomass.conference@etaflorence.it
www.conference-biomass.com

International Conference Focuses on Improving Health and Nutrition through Agriculture
http://www.ifpri.org/
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Feb 10, 2011

New Delhi - More than 900 participants are gathering today at an international conference from February 10-12 to examine ways that agriculture can enhance the health and nutritional status of poor people in developing countries.

"Agriculture is much more than just producing food and other products. It is linked to people's well-being in many ways, and it has the potential to do much more to improve their nutrition and reduce their health risks. But to accomplish this, we need to re-imagine agriculture," said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Europe - EU

US Trade Chief Urges Europe to Open Market to GM Foods
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iSvlZgb3tPJ31vzO9phygZjd5JBw?docId=CNG.2df6f06d0b2d96b0ba00c506a4d565e1.01
Roddy Thomson, AFP, Feb 10, 2011

BRUSSELS - A top US trade official said she will bang down the door of the European Commission Thursday in a bid to break a longstanding impasse blocking the march of genetically-modified foods.

"When Europeans come to the United States, they come and enjoy our cuisine with no concerns whatsoever," Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro said ahead of talks with European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht's senior officials. "Why should we have different standards in Europe?

"We have very strict safety standards -- as do you -- and I think that alone is good reason to make sure that our products are able to be sold in Europe," she insisted.

"I will be raising that issue today -- it is important to address, and to continue to press the commission to go the right way. "Decisions on GM foods need to be science-based," she stressed.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth have commissioned legal advice which argues that dropping a "zero tolerance" policy on even the smallest traces "to appease the industry lobby" will lead to a contaminated food chain and "would not be legal."

Poor Nations May Bear Brunt of EU GMO Policy, Says U.S. Official
Dow Jones Newswires, Feb. 25 2011
http://www.agriculture.com/news/policy/po-nations-may-bear-brunt-of-eu-gmo_4-ar14964

Emerging nations could be hit by new European Union policy on genetically-modified crops if they are expected to shoulder extra costs of compliance, a senior U.S. official in Brussels said Friday.

EU officials this week moved to raise the threshold for unauthorized GMO material in feed imports in a bid to ease the passage of cheaper supplies from the U.S. and South America.

Member states will now allow shipments to include traces of GMOs of up to 0.1% in feed imports, but the material must already be authorized in the exporting country and must be pending approval in the EU.

Maurice House, agriculture minister-counsellor of the U.S. Mission to the EU, told Dow Jones Newswires there are moves underway by some anti-GMO groups to ensure the costs of checking shipments are transferred to exporting countries, many of which are emerging nations.

If this happens, it could effectively bar exports from developing countries which grow GMO crops, like Brazil and Argentina, as the costs of checking each shipment would be prohibitively expensive, he said. "Some people are saying that [traces of GMOs in imports] will still be above the level defined in this new solution" of 0.1%, he said.

Europe

Ireland: Greens' Departure Allows Irish Government to Embrace GM Crops
Guardian (UK), Feb 10, 2011

The collapse of its coalition with the Green Party has given Fianna Fáil the freedom to ditch Ireland's anti-GM stance.

Ireland will now support EU proposals to allow the marketing of GM food for human consumption and animal feed. Against the background of one of the most divisive and stormy parliamentary election campaigns in Ireland's history, the outgoing government has made a significant move on GM crops.

Minister for agriculture, Brendan Smith from the ruling Fianna Fáil party, confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Ireland has changed its voting position and will now support a number of EU Commission proposals designed to allow the marketing of GM food for human consumption, animal feed and food ingredients.

The move, although it has been welcomed in many quarters, will no doubt cause controversy, not least in the ranks of the ruling party's former coalition allies the Green Party, whose departure from government triggered the announcement of a general election to be held on 25 February. Agriculture minister Brendan Smith explained this week that "it has been a matter of great concern to Ireland, in recent years, that there has been a severe disruption to trade of animal feed, caused by the delays in the authorisation, by the EU, of GM varieties which have already been approved in the exporting countries."

According to Smith, the difficulty of importing certified GM-free animal feed (90% of which comes from North and South America) has meant the shortfall has had to be made up by more expensive feed, which puts Irish meat producers at a serious disadvantage. The Irish Farmers' Association says this disadvantage means a financial penalty of as much as €15 (£13) on every pig produced.

The EU proposal seeks to remove the "zero tolerance" policy towards GM components of animal feed and allow trace amounts - up to 0.1% - to be imported.

Turkey Says ' Yes' to GM Animal Feed
Hürriyet Daily News, February 3, 2011

The Turkish Biosafety Commission has permitted the use of three types of genetically modified soybeans in animal feed, according to the Turkish Animal Feed Producer's Union, or Türkiyem-Bir.

"This permission is limited to the use of genetically modified soybeans in animal feed," Hakkı Erdoğdu, secretary-general of Türkiyem-Bir, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday. "GM soybeans do not harm the animal products at all," he said, noting that the permission was announced in the country's official newspaper on Wednesday.

Erdoğdu said Turkey currently imports soybeans from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, adding that Turkey's animal production is "insufficient" to meet the increasing demand. "Turkey needs nearly 2 million tons of soybeans annually while the country's production stays at around 50,000 tons. There are various reports stating that genetically modified products do not harm animals if they are used as animal feed," he said.

Due to the recent issuing of a Biosafety Law, importing GM soy products was banned in Turkey, but the commission has permitted for the first time genetically modified soybeans to be used in animal feed with the decision. According to Erdoğdu, "GM beans will not harm animal products such as meat, milk or eggs."

GMO-Safety.eu - Biosafety research made transparent
http://twitter.com/GMO_Safety

The 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 and i-Bio Information Biowissenschaften Aachen.

Africa

Genetically Modified Crops are Safe for Uganda
Clet Wandui Masiga,
Daily Monitor,
February 2, 2011

We write to create awareness to people who think that GMOs when introduced will be more of a liability than a benefit to Uganda. Critics who have raised issues against GMOs have been left to enjoy audience to promote critical thinking on the possible risks as one of the safety measures and to integrate their views into research.

Currently, scientists from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan managed by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa are developing GM maize that is tolerant to drought, GM cassava for resistance to the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) to list but a few. We are using GM technology because traditional breeding tools have failed over the years to produce the desired varieties.

Mr Masiga is a conservation geneticist working in the Agrobio-diversity and biotechnology programme of ASARECA.This article was co-authored with Dr Charles Mugoya

India

Economic Benefits of Bt Brinjal
- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, pbtkrao@gmail.com,
January 26, 2011

A recent ex-ante assessment of Bt brinjal highlights its economic benefits. This referenced and peer reviewed article (the authors thanked three other scientists for 'review and invaluable suggestions'), by three scientists of a public sector institute, the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), under the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, was published in December 2010, as Brief No. 34 of the NCAP. The research, based on field surveys conducted during August-October 2009, was financially supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

The study shows that adaption of Bt brinjal significantly reduces insecticide application and losses from the brinjal shoot and fruit borer (SFB), resulting in an increase in marketable yield reducing costs of production; Bt brinjal adoption would add between 30,000 to 119,000 tons to the total production of brinjal, depending upon the extent of cultivation in different areas / States;

Absolute annual gain at the country level from Bt brinjal adoption would be about Rs. 577 crore at an adoption level of 15 per cent. It would be about Rs. 1,167 crore at 30 per cent and Rs. 2,387 crore at 60 per cent adoption levels Sixty per cent of the overall gains would accrue to the consumer on decreased sale price resulting from lower cultivation costs and higher product recovery.

America

USA and anti-GMO activists
Environmental activists succeeded in alarming the American public about gene-spliced crops and foods for a time during the 1990s and the early part of last decade, but they cried wolf so often in the face of an unbroken string of successes that the public began to tune them out. More recently, the activists have had to dig deeper into their bag of tricks and revive a proven strategy for obstructing progress: litigation that challenges the procedural steps government agencies take when approving individual gene-spliced crops. Since 2007, a coalition of green activist groups and organic farmers has used the courts to overturn two final approvals for gene-spliced crop varieties and the issuance of permits to test several others. At least one additional case is now pending.
Protecting by Bt cotton
To demonstrate the insects' destructive power, Clemson University entomologist Jeremy Greene planted two cotton varieties - one genetically modified to provide protection from caterpillars, one not - in a demonstration field at the Edisto Research and Education Center.

The non-protected cotton was planted in a pattern that spelled the word "Tigers." Aerial photographs taken near harvest show that while the genetically modified crop survived intact, the unprotected plants provided three square meals a day for the crop-hungry herbivores.

Ottawa Rejects Stronger Export Regulations for Genetically Modified Crops
James Bradshaw, Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb. 09, 2011
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario/ottawa-rejects-stronger-export-regulations-for-genetically-modified-crops/article1901494/

Parliament has voted down a bill that sought to strengthen regulatory laws that govern the export of genetically modified crops. But hours earlier in Guelph, Ont., leading minds in the study of the controversial agricultural technologies were already talking about how to control and promote fast-moving innovations in the field.

Bill would add more scrutiny to approval process of new genetically modified seeds. Canada needs policy overhaul to keep up with global food markets. Alex Atamanenko, an NDP MP, renewed the debate last year by introducing C-474, a private member's bill that would have required a regulatory review of the potential harm to demand for Canadian exports of a particular GMO before its approval, on top of current examinations for its safety for feed, human consumption and environmental release.

The bill died on Wednesday evening by a vote of 178-98, after Conservative and Liberal MPs united to quash it.

Science of Genetically Modified Crops Very Different From Politics
Robert Wager, Vancouver Sun, February 19, 2011
http://www.vancouversun.com/life

Members of Parliament did a great service for Canadian farmers by recently voting down Bill C-474. This bill would have allowed critics to introduce an endless series of potential objections to any and all new genetically modified crops. Clearly, the goals of the Europeanstyle Bill C-474 were not to protect Canadian farmers, but to advance a particular anti-GM ideology For decades, the critics of GM crop technology said there was not enough science. The science is now clearly siding with development of GM crops.

With 48 per cent of certain commodity crops grown in Canada being genetically modified, this bill could have done a great deal of damage. Ed Schafer, president of the Canadian Canola Council, said: "The changes proposed in Bill C-474 would have only added ambiguity and uncertainty to our seed system, with the result being a loss of innovation and competitiveness for farmers."

First, it must be made clear that genetically modified crops are as safe as or safer than any other type of food production. Decades of research have demonstrated the safety and sustainability of genetically modified crop technology.

A few months back, the European Union released a report called A Decade of EU-funded GMO research 2001-2010. They concluded: "There is no scientific evidence associating (genetically modified organisms) with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and animals."

The European GM policy (best described as a non-tariff trade barrier) is an excellent example of how socio-economic considerations have been used to stymie trade. To suggest the introduction of the same socioeconomic considerations would help Canadian trade, as suggested by the backers of Bill C-474, is simply false.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a 2010 report on GM crops and sustainable agriculture It contains documentation of the first 15 years of GM crop contribution to sustainable agriculture These documents deal with the science of genetically modified crops. The politics of genetically modified crops are very different. While European science agrees with the rest of the world on the safety of GM crops and food, their politicians do not. Europe has been very reluctant to allow GM crop imports. In fact, only 17 out of 120 applications to import GM crops have been approved.

News in Science

Plants Can Adapt Genetically to Survive Harsh Environments
- Purdue Univ., January 31, 2011
- http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110131SaltSodium.html

David Salt, a professor of horticulture, noticed several years ago that a variant of the research plant Arabidopsis thaliana that could tolerate higher levels of sodium had come from coastal areas. To test the observation, Salt grew more than 300 Arabidopsis thaliana plants from seeds gathered across Europe. The plants were grown in non-saline soil and their leaf-sodium content was measured.

Genetically Modified Plants Hold the Key to Saving The Banana Industry
http://r20.rs6.net/
Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Scientists have genetically modified a trial crop of banana plants to survive a soil-borne fungus which has wiped out plantations in the Northern Territory and is threatening crops across the globe.

Professor James Dale, director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities based at QUT, said the destruction of crops in Queensland by Tropical Cyclone Yasi proved just how important it was to have a back up available. He said if genetically modified plants could overcome the disease, known as Tropical Race Four, it would act as an insurance policy to supply resistant plants in the event that the disease moved into the banana production areas in north Queensland. Tropical Race Four attacked Australia's favourite banana plant, the Cavendish, inside and out.

Gene Corrections Therapy for Plants Developed at Saudi Arabia
THUWAL, Saudi Arabia, February 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a novel technology that could improve the quality, yield and disease resistance of current crop varieties. The implications for agricultural science are profound.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS) Jan 24th, 2011, Dr. Magdy Mahfouz and the research team discuss a new way of genetically engineering plants to tolerate aggressive environments. Regions where water quantity and quality are limiting, such as Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, could benefit by growing crops engineered for stress tolerance, which would not only address the problem of the nutritional needs of a growing population but could pave the way for surplus crops to be exported to GM-restrictive markets like Japan.

Reminder to content type on to