News in March 2011
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2011-04-04

Global

The 9 billion-people question
The world’s population will grow from almost 7 billion now to over 9 billion in 2050. John Parker asks if there will be enough food to go round
The Economist Feb 24th 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/18200618

THE 1.6-hectare (4-acre) Broadbalk field lies in the centre of Rothamsted farm, about 40km (25 miles) north of London. In 1847 the farm’s founder, Sir John Lawes, described its soil as a heavy loam resting on chalk and capable of producing good wheat when well manured. The 2010 harvest did not seem to vindicate his judgment. In the centre of the field the wheat is abundant, yielding 10 tonnes a hectare, one of the highest rates in the world for a commercial crop. But at the western end, near the manor house, it produces only 4 or 5 tonnes a hectare; other, spindlier, plants yield just 1 or 2 tonnes.

Broadbalk is no ordinary field. The first experimental crop of winter wheat was sown there in the autumn of 1843, and for the past 166 years the field, part of the Rothamsted Research station, has been the site of the longest-running continuous agricultural experiment in the world. Now different parts of the field are sown using different practices, making Broadbalk a microcosm of the state of world farming.

The wheat yielding a tonne a hectare is like an African field, and for the same reason: this crop has had no fertiliser, pesticide or anything else applied to it. African farmers are sometimes thought to be somehow responsible for their low yields, but the blame lies with the technology at their disposal. Given the same technology, European and American farmers get the same results.

At the start of 2011 the food industry is in crisis. World food prices have risen above the peak they reached in early 2008 (see chart 2).

But the Broadbalk field shows something else. Chart 1 tracks its yields from the start, showing how the three different kinds of wheat farming—African, Green Revolution and modern—have diverged, sometimes quite suddenly: in the 1960s with the introduction of new herbicides for Green Revolution wheat, and in the 1980s with new fungicides and semi-dwarf varieties. Worryingly, though, in the past 15 years the yields of the most productive varieties of wheat in Broadbalk have begun to level out or even fall. The fear is that Broadbalk may prove a microcosm in this respect, too.

The alternative view is sceptical of, or even downright hostile to, the modern food business. This group, influential among non-governmental organisations and some consumers, concentrates more on the food problems of richer countries, such as concerns about animal welfare and obesity. It argues that modern agriculture produces food that is tasteless, nutritionally inadequate and environmentally disastrous. It thinks the Green Revolution has been a failure, or at least that it has done more environmental damage and brought fewer benefits than anyone expected. An influential book espousing this view, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, starts by asking: “What should we have for dinner?” By contrast, those worried about food supplies wonder: “Will there be anything for dinner?”

This special report concentrates on the problems of feeding the 9 billion. It therefore gives greater weight to the first group. It argues that many of their claims are justified: feeding the world in 2050 will be hard, and business as usual will not do it. The report looks at ways to boost yields of the main crops, considers the constraints of land and water and the use of fertiliser and pesticide, assesses biofuel policies, explains why technology matters so much and examines the impact of recent price rises. It points out that although the concerns of the critics of modern agriculture may be understandable, the reaction against intensive farming is a luxury of the rich. Traditional and organic farming could feed Europeans and Americans well. It cannot feed the world.

World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam
The world needs ideas and solutions to the problem of dwindling food supplies, and this is your chance to help make a difference.

See the list of ideas submitted by jammers - you can vote ideas up or down, enter your own ideas, and comment on ideas and engage in the discussion at https://www.ideaconnection.com/members/idea-jams/ideas.html

How We Engineered The Food Crisis
- Henry Miller, Guardian (UK), March 20, 2011

'Thanks to dysfunctional regulation of genetic engineering and misguided biofuels policy, the world's poorest are going hungry'

Food prices worldwide were up by a whopping 25% in 2010, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, and February marked the eighth consecutive month of rising global food prices. Within the past two months, food riots helped to trigger the ousting of ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. (It is noteworthy that food prices increased 17% last year in Egypt, and the price of wheat, a critical staple there, soared by more than 50%.) For poor countries that are net importers of food, even small increases in food prices can be catastrophic, and recent bumps have been anything but small.

There are several causes of rising prices. First, large-scale disasters have precipitated localised crop failures, some of which have had broad ripple effects - for example, Russia's ban on grain exports through at least the end of this calendar year resulted from fires and drought. Second, deadly strains of an evolving wheat pathogen (a rust) named Ug99 are increasingly threatening yields in the major wheat-growing areas of southern and eastern Africa, the central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America. Third, rising incomes in emerging markets like China and India have increased the ability of an expanding middle class to shift from a grain-based diet to one that contains more meat.

And fourth, against this backdrop of lessened supply and heightened demand, private investment in R&D on innovative practices and technologies has been discouraged by arbitrary and unscientific national and international regulatory barriers - against, in particular, new varieties of plants produced with modern genetic engineering (aka recombinant DNA technology or genetic modification, or GM). Genetic engineering offers plant breeders the tools to make crops do spectacular new things. In more than two dozen countries, farmers are using genetically engineered crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment.

Biodiversity doesn’t feed people, but GM crops do
American Council on Science and Health, March 30, 2011
http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.2489/news_detail.asp

During a United Nations meeting in Bali to discuss a treaty on plant genetics, La Via Campesina, which according to an article in The Atlantic, is said to be an international farmers’ movement comprised of 150 organizations in 70 countries, decided not to waste time addressing real agricultural problems like the rising cost of food, starvation in underdeveloped nations and the poor crop yields in certain areas. Instead, the group decided that “real” peace of mind can only be achieved when biodiversity is protected, which includes further restrictions and bans on the use of genetically-modified (GM) seeds.

In the article, reporter Anna Lappé further promulgates these anti-agricultural biotech ideologies by quoting from a 2006 report by Doug Gurian-Sherman, currently a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists: “With the recent approval of genetically engineered alfalfa in the United States, organic farmers here are ever more concerned about such a ‘genetic trespass.’”

“Organic farmers are concerned all right — about protecting their ‘organic turf’ and protecting their crops from ‘contamination’ with non-organic genes, not feeding millions of malnourished people worldwide or preventing the hundreds of thousands of deaths occurring annually due to starvation,” fumes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “This is nothing more than pseudoscience since it is well-known that GM products increase crop yields and have the potential to actually enhance the nutritional benefits of crops. That is, if they were allowed to be harvested in the EU or several African nations, where they are currently barred from use.”

Likewise, the banana industry in Uganda finds itself at such a crossroads. Thirty percent of its banana crop has been infected with banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), a disease that is wiping out entire plantations — and that’s not okay for a country that is the second largest producer of bananas in the world. But scientists from the National Banana Research Program have found an answer to a problem that conventional methods were unable to solve. Using genes from a sweet pepper plant, they created bananas resistant to BXW, which sounds great — except that GM crops are illegal in Uganda, even though 95 percent of farmers are willing to grow them.

So perhaps activists such as La Via Campesina — and Ms. Lappé, albeit her agenda is less obvious — should stop pushing a political program posing as science policy and start representing what real farmers are asking for, such as Ugandan farmer Arthur Kamenya: "When someone is hungry, they've got to eat now! If people are going to die of hunger today, then we cannot be talking about the future, and if GM is going to provide that solution, then as Africa, we need to embrace that.”

GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle
- Dr. Marquita K. Hill, ISB NEWS REPORT, MARCH 2011
Full report at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2011/Mar/GM-Crop-Regulations.pdf
AAAS Symposium February 18, 2011 Washington, DC;

Regulations governing genetically engineered (GE) crops, even commodity crops, are overwhelming. For small-market GE crops, regulations have become almost impossible, especially for crops produced and tested in publicly-supported institutions, such as universities. At the AAAS symposium titled "GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle?" (http://aaas.confex.com) held in Washington, DC, six speakers presented key impediments posed by US regulations, particularly when public institutions are trying to follow them, and offered possible improvements.

Books & Articles

GM Crops, A New Journal
http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/cfp
- Prof. Vivian Moses

About four months ago I send you an E-mail about GM Crops, the new peer-reviewed journal on the science, commerce, regulation and politics of genetically modified crops, and on biotechnology generally in agriculture.

The journal was launched a year ago by Landes Bioscience Journals in Austin, Texas (http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops) as the first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind; the distinguished editorial board is headed by Editor-in-Chief Professor Naglaa A. Abdallah at the University of Cairo. Professor Channapatna S. Prakash (Tuskegee University) and I joined Professor Abdallah and the board as co-editors in October 2010.

The publication is dedicated specifically to transgenic crops, their products, uses in agriculture, and all the technical, political and economic issues contingent on their deployment. In addition to publishing original research and reviews, GM Crops will also contain regular features, including Extra Views and GM in the Media.

Questions? Please ask Kristine Pipit (mailto:kpipit@landesbioscience.com) or Kim Mitchell I (mailto: kmitchell@landesbioscience.com) (tel: +1-512-637-6050) - or ask me.

GM crops can 'help achieve' Europe's objectives
Martin Banks, 2nd March 2011 The Parliament.com
http://www.theparliament.com/latest-news/article/newsarticle/gm-crops-can-help-achieve-europes-objectives/

A conference in parliament has been told that genetically modified crops offer "tremendous" opportunities to help achieve key EU policy goals. The event comes days after a parliamentary committee approved a draft law that would allow the import of animal feed contaminated with small traces of genetically modified crops. Both the commission and parliament are expected to accept the legislation by this summer, which would mark a new approach to EU policy towards biotech food.

A special report on feeding the world
Doing more with less http://www.economist.com/node/18200606#comments
The only reliable way to produce more food is to use better technology
THE ECONOMIST - Feb 24th 2011 | from the print edition

Over the next 40 years yields need to rise by around 1.5% a year to feed mankind adequately. Maize, which has had by far the most genetic research, is the only crop whose yield is growing by more than that. If genetic selection can be extended to wheat, rice and soyabeans, that should go a long way to feeding the world by 2050.

Interesting article, however, with serious misinformation that is a shame of The Economist.

Transgenic and conventional crops from –omic view
http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/early/2011/02/24/pp.111.173609.full.pdf+html?ijkey=tKNFAq6FIYWx0Ft&keytype=ref

The French authors made a literature survey based on 44 recent "omic" comparisons between GE and non-GE crop lines. Those profiling techniques (transcriptomic, proteomics, and metabolomics) have been increasingly applied to the analysis of genetically engineered (GE) crop plants with regard to their food safety and nutritional equivalence.

The results show that transgenesis has less impact on the expression of genomes or on protein and metabolite levels than conventional breeding or environmental conditions (e.g. drought)

Differences between GE crops and their comparators should be analysed in a wider context of natural variation. The most pronounced differences were consistently found between the various conventional varieties, a trend linked to the crop diversity maintained or created by plant breeders. This should be put in perspective taking into account that conventional breeding is generally regarded as safe, despite the fact that the nature of the changes in new conventional cultivars are usually unknown.

The study concludes:

The fast accumulating data from targeted approaches as well as non-targeted profiling, consistently indicating that transgenesis has less impact than conventional breeding, should lead at least to a convergence of regulations for various crop breeding methods. Obviously, on a scientific basis this should mean lowering the current regulatory burden for GE crops. Considering that health problems have not been identified for GE crops after 15 years of commercialization, time may have come to simplify the risk assessment of modern biotechnology products, and therefore reduce cost. This would make risk assessment more affordable for small companies, academic institutions, or low-income countries.

Plant Physiology Preview. Published on February 24, 2011, as DOI:10.1104/pp.111.173609

Events

European Expert Forum Conference on Biorefineries
Budapest, Hungary, 12 - 13 April
http://www.star-colibri.eu/events/
Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production
Eighth BIGMAP Symposium,
April 19 & 20, 2011, Ames, Iowa.

This year's 1 1/2 day event is titled "Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production." Scheduled speakers include: Getachew Belay, Senior Biotechnology Policy Advisor, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Rikin Gandhi, Executive Officer, Digital Green, India; Dennis Garrity, Director General, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF); Rick Hellmich, Research Entomologist, USDA/ARS; and Kathleen Delate, Professor of Agronomy & Horticulture, Iowa State University.

Genetically Modified Organisms in Horticulture
White River, South Africa; September 12-15, 2011

The International Society for Horticulture Science in conjunction with the local organizing committee in South Africa is pleased to announce the 2nd International Society for Horticulture science (ISHS) Genetically Modified Organisms in horticulture (GMO 2011).

Adri Veale (Convener and chair of organizing committee)
adri.veale@up.ac.za; ishsgmo2011@gmail.com

Europe - EU

Crop Chemophobia: Will Precaution Kill the Green Revolution?
Jon Entine (Author)

Recently, the European Union passed a ban on twenty-two chemicals--about 15 percent of the EU pesticides market--to begin in 2011. In Crop Chemophobia, Jon Entine and his coauthors examine the "precautionary principle" that underlies the EU's decision and explore the ban's potential consequences--including environmental degradation, decreased food safety, impaired disease-control efforts, and a hungrier world.

"Crop Chemophobia offers a science-based consideration of the impact of agricultural technology and highlights the need to give more thought to the principles guiding the regulation of food production. This is more than an academic debate; it could save lives." --Mike Johanns, U.S. Senator for the State of Nebraska and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture http://www.amazon.com/Crop-Chemophobia-Precaution-Green-Revolution/dp/0844743615

EU issued a Green Paper “From Challenges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation funding
http://europa.eu/documentation/official-docs/green-papers/index_cs.htm#2011

This Green Paper launches a public debate on the key issues to be taken into account for future EU research and innovation funding programmes. These programmes will be part of the Commission's proposals for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) to be presented in June 2011. Specific proposals for funding programmes are due to be adopted by the end of 2011. The research, business, government and civil society communities and citizens are called upon to engage in this important debate.

Main points:

bulletLessons from EU research and inovation programmes;
bulletTowards a common sttrategic framework for EU research and inovation funding;
bulletPublic debate and further steps.

Member States, the Parliament, and other countries are invited to promote the debate with their stakeholders. To support the debate on these questions, a variety of social media will be used, including a public consultation website (http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union). The consultation will close on 20 May 2011. The broad debate on this Green Paper will be complemented by targeted consultations, such as on the ERA framework and the EIT's strategic innovation agenda. It will also draw on the results of the public consultation on the future of the CIP.

On 10 June 2011, an event will be organised to wrap up the public consultation and discuss the results with the stakeholder community. The Commission plans to put forward its formal legislative proposals for a Common Strategic Framework for EU research and innovation funding by the end of 2011. These proposals will be accompanied by ex-ante impact assessments, providing the necessary evidence base for the proposed options.

Two very important document were published:
Report “The Knowledge Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) in Europe: Achievements and Challenges” of 14 September 2010;

and the Report of the conference

“The Knowledge Based Bio-Economy towards 2020 - Turning Challenges into Opportunities” of 14th September 2010 in Brussels.

The Impact of The EU Regulatory Constraint of Transgenic Crops on Farm Income
 http://www.sciencedirect.com
- Julian Park, Ian McFarlane, Richard Phipps and Graziano Ceddia,
New Biotechnology, February 2011

World population and the need for nutritious food continue to grow. For 14 years farmers from a range of countries across the globe have been accessing transgenic technologies either to reduce crop production costs, increase yield and/or to exploit a range of rotational benefits. In 2009 134Mha of transgenic crops was grown. The arable area of the EU27 is approximately 102Mha; however, only about 0.1Mha of transgenic crops, mainly maize in Spain, is grown in the EU.

This is in part due to limited approvals before the establishment of a moratorium on the cultivation of transgenic crops. In this paper we estimate the revenue foregone by EU farmers, based on the potential hectarage so fIR and HT transgenic crops that have been economically successful elsewhere if they were to be grown in areas of the EU where farmers could expect an overall financial benefit.

This benefit would accrue primarily from reduced input costs. We estimate that if the areas of transgenic maize, cotton, soya, oilseed rape and sugarbeet were to be grown where there is agronomic need or benefit then farmer margins would increase by between ¤443 and ¤929 M/year. It is noted that this margin of revenue foregone is likely to increase if the current level of approval and growth remain slow, as new transgenic events come to market and are rapidly taken up by farmers in other parts of the world.

Europe

Greenpeace and GMO
Daily Mail (UK), March 24, 2011

Lord Taverne, former MP and minister, said that organisations like Greenpeace do more harm than good despite their "not rational" opposition to genetically modified foods.

He told the House of Lords: 'Outside the European Union, agriculture and biotechnology has been the fastest growing and more effective application of a new technology in agriculture there has ever been.

' It is an enormous success story. There are now 148 million hectares on which genetically modified crops are cultivated in 29 countries. 'There are now 15 million farmers in the world who grow genetically modified crops and over 14 million of them are small-scale farmers.'

During a debate on adapting to climate change, he highlighted the greater productivity and ability to deal with with water shortages enjoyed by genetically modified crops.

'So, under these circumstances, why is there still so much opposition? I think it's because we tend to treat the green organisations - Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the organic movement - with an extraordinary respect.

'We treat them as if they just stand for motherhood. People are terrified of criticising them publicly. And yet if one looks at the effect on agriculture they do far more harm than good.

'They keep on saying that we must prove the technology is safe. There have been any number of reports. 'Every single national academy of scientists in the world - the Mexican, the Indian, the Chinese, the American, the Brazilian, the Royal Society, the European Society have all examined this time after time after time and their conclusion is absolutely clear.

'So far there is no evidence, despite 12 years of their growth and consumption, of harm to human health or harm to the environment.' Farming minister Lord Henley said the debate on biotechnology was often "polarised". He said: 'We believe the argument should be based on the existing science and the evidence. We will always make our decisions in the end upon scientific evidence future.'

Turkey Has To Import GMO Products As Raw Feed Material
http://www.bsba.ag
- Prof. Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz, Black Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA), March 2, 2011

Turkey consumes about four million tons of corn yearly, periodically covers it with domestic production. Some years amount of imported commodity is as much as the yearly corn harvest. It is proven fact that improvement in meet production causes import of feed material. Turkey's annual export value of agricultural products has reached to 14 billion US$ lately, in which contribution of animal products is not negligible. Imported raw feed material consists of soybean and corn, which are not segregated as transgenic or non-transgenic during harvesting and/or storage.

Some biotechnology opponents are against such commercial business without any scientific evidence. Their attitude was clearly observed during the period Turkey has been struggling to adopt the "National Biosafety Law". At the same time their mentor countries from EC countries are importing, consuming and now planting transgenics like Sweden, Germany (potato) and Spain (corn - over 10 years). Growing food price may put genetically modified (GM) food on the menu.

Besides that importing of GM raw feed material is the object for protests from the opponents. Lack of information or misinformation seem to hinder people from think objectively and globally. That explains why they are against importing GMO products as raw feed row material. Who are they working for?

Prof. Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz (nazimi.acikgoz@gmail.com) is one of the establishers of "Seed Center" of the Ege University. He also moderates agbiyotek; "http://www.agbiyotek.com" a monthly bilingual agrobiotechnological electronic newsletter and a blog: http://agrobiyoteknoloji.blogcu.com

GM Plans Could Encourage Violence, Spelman Warns EU
Caroline Stocks, Farmers Weekly (UK), March 22, 2011

EU proposals to allow countries to reject genetically-modified crop technology to prevent civil unrest could encourage violence and crop vandalism, DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman has warned.

Mrs Spelman joined a number of EU environment ministers who said they were unconvinced about draft European Commission rules that would allow member states to decide for themselves whether they would allow GM plantings.

at a meeting in Brussels last week (17 March), Mrs Spelman said using public order as a possible reason to opt out of growing GM crops would set a dangerous precedent.

Backed by France's environment minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Mrs Spelman said the clause might encourage violence or lead to more militant anti-GM campaigners damaging crops or property.

Germany's environment minister Norbert Roettgen also raised doubts, claiming the opt-outs proved the proposals were not compatible with EU or World Trade Organisation rules, while delegates from Belgium and Austria also expressed concerns.

Rejecting criticism of the report, EU health commissioner John Dalli told ministers work was already underway between the legal services of the Council and the Parliament to "make clearer why the proposed legal basis is appropriate" ahead of a working party meeting on 30 March.

Africa

GM Crops Are The Answer for Many African Farmers
- Father Athanas Meixner, Soni, Tanzania; Letter to the Editor of The Economist, March 17, 2011

SIR - GM crops are the answer for many African farmers. It is the cruel propaganda of European activists, sadly swallowed by the ruling African urban class, that prevents poor farmers from access to this lifeline. GM seeds are offered free to African farmers by Monsanto. And yet, out of fear or a neocolonial mindset, farmers refuse to take up the offer, lest they offend their European masters.

I see my neighbours, small landholders, desperately trying to extend their acreage and continually being pushed back to their one hectare. They see weeds smothering their maize and forcing them to abandon the rest of their field to return to the part that they already weeded but where more weeds are coming up.

Tanzania: Strict bio-safety law stalls GM maize trials
The Citizen Wednesday, 02 March 2011 22:55
Al-amani http://thecitizen.co.tz/magazines/-/8728-strict-bio-safety-law-stalls-gm-maize-trials
Mutarubukwa BusinessWeek March 2011 22:55

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is still lagging behind in conducting confined field trials for genetically modified (GM) maize compared with other East African countries, says a researcher.The situation is mainly attributed to country's strict bio-safety law.

"We have had successful mock trials since 2009, but we failed to move to the next step last August because the government did not grant us a permit," the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (Wema) project country coordinator Alois Kullaya told BusinessWeek recently.

Start Planting Biotech Crops
KABURU MUGAMBI, Daily Nation, February 28 2011
Saturday Nation http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/smartcompany/Kenya+to+start+planting+biotech+crops++/-/1226/1116244/-/ndt636/-/index.html

The government says it will publish biotechnology guidelines in two months, setting the country on course to join developing countries planting genetically modified crops.

President Kibaki signed the Biosafety Act in February 2009 but the law needed guidelines to facilitate implementation. Without them, the government can approve applications for biotechnology products only for research trials.

National Biosafety Authority acting chief executive Roy Mugiira says indecision on labelling of genetically modified products should and how much application fees the authority should charge dragged formulation of the regulations.

Japan

The Haunting Erotics of Genetically Modified Food in Japan
- Neal Kazuhiro Akatsukaa (University of Hawai'i at Manoa, United States)
Appetite, Volume 56, Issue 2, April 2011, Page 516; doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.11.151 ; Elsevier Ltd.

Since 1996, when genetically modified (GM) food and feed were first imported into Japan, consumers have grown increasingly wary of the place of such food in their diets. By 1999 this negative sentiment had become so ubiquitous that the Japanese government, in response to pressure by consumer and activist organizations, passed legislation to regulate GM food and implement mandatory labelling.

Nonetheless, consumers continue to voice a desire to avoid GM food in their everyday lives. This raises questions as to what is the nature of this desire and how it has emerged? Based on an analysis of popular culture and ethnographic research in Tokyo and Chiba Prefectures conducted between 2008 and 2009, the contours of the gastronomic threat of GM food for Japanese consumers emerges as a haunting absent presence that restructures the urban space of Tokyo.

This haunting results from GM food being simultaneously everywhere, as GM food are quantitatively present and being consumed; yet nowhere, insofar as many consumers cannot or do not look and find GM food. The nature of this polluting threat shapes how food products (e.g. strawberries, tomatoes, okra, and potatoes) are made gastronomically desirable in food venues such as a neighbourhood Santoku supermarket.

In this context, the (im)possibility of conscious consumption of GM food by Japanese consumers should be understood by how consumers become interpellated within an intimate actor-network of entangled, mutually penetrating bodies premised in part upon the exclusion of GM food.

Selected abstracts from the 2010 Annual Conference of the Joint Meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS), Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) 2-5 June 2010, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Asia

http://cera-gmc.org/index.php?action=meetings
- May 16-18, 2011, New Delhi, India

This conference will provide an opportunity to hear leading scientists from regulatory agencies, public sector research institutions and the private sector in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, India, Mexico, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the U.S. present on the current science that is used to inform the environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

More Info: Dr. Vibha Ahuja; vibhaahuja.bcil@nic.in

Mahyco to look east for GM seeds market
Soumik Dey, Financial Chronicle, Mar 30 2011

With government restricting the introduction of genetically modified seeds in food items, Mumbai-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) plans to sell such seeds in Bangladesh and Philippines. Mahyco, which has US seed producer Monsanto as 26 per cent stakeholder, has clocked 15 per cent growth this fiscal with Rs 550 crore sales turnover.

"Mahyco has approached with its technology for insect-tolerant Bt brinjal in Bangladesh and Phillipines. In both the countries, regulatory approvals are now awaited," Raju Barwale, managing director of Mahyco Seeds told Financial Chronicle.

Barwale pointed to an "indefinite moratorium" on Bt brinjal imposed by environment ministry that oversees biotechnology regulator, genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC). This restriction has prompted offer of the technology to other countries.

"In both the countries, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute and the Institute of Plant Breeding of UP Las Banos in Manila are seeking regulatory approvals for introducing Bt brinjal," said Barwale.

India

INDIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ESTABLISHMENT OF BIOTECH-RELATED SYSTEMS
http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=7407

While addressing the joint session of the Parliament of India on February 21, 2011, India President Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil announced the establishment of the Crop Genetic Enhancement Network to spur the development of improved crop varieties in the country. Underscoring the significance of scientific and technological competence for sustained economic growth of India, she enumerated many new initiatives in the area of S&T to support the sustained agriculture and economic growth.

In this direction, the President informed the Parliament that "An Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research is being established to impart instruction and strengthen research in the country. Establishment of new institutions has contributed significantly to the growth of biotech in the country." A Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council will also be set up to augment efforts on food security, promote industrial research and development, and facilitate innovation in biotechnology. "For developing improved crop varieties, a national program for Crop Genetic Enhancement Network will be launched soon," said the President. In addition, a National Science & Engineering Research Board has been notified to provide impetus for promoting basic research in the country. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill piloted by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is slated to be tabled in the parliament in the next session.

A copy of the President's speech to the joint session of the Parliament of India is available at http://presidentofindia.nic.in/sp210211.pdf. For more information about biotech development in India, contact b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org

Bt Cotton
Business Standard (India), March 31, 2011

The Association of Biotechnology-led Enterprises (ABLE) on Tuesday said Bt Cotton has received good response from farmers in the country on the back of higher productivity and the lesser cost of cultivation.

India has also turned into an exporter of this commodity from an importer a few years ago due to the higher production per acre, ABLE said. "Despite opposition from certain sections of the society, farmers have adopted Bt cotton in a big way and there is no harmful impact of cultivating the crop in the cotton growing regions of the country," T M Manjunath, entomologist and consultant - Agri-Biotechnology, said on the sidelines of releasing his book on Bt Cotton here.

He also said, negative lobbying backed by pesticide companies was one of the main reasons or misconceptions about Bt Cotton. In value terms, according to a study, Indian pesticide industry is estimated to be around Rs 7,400 crore including exports of Rs 2,900 crore.

Bt Cotton is presently cultivated in nine states, namely Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan among others.

India to Plant First Herbicide-Tolerant GM Crop
Harish Damodaran, Hindu, March 6 , 2011
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/article1514862.ece

The coming kharif season could witness plantings of the first 'stacked trait' genetically modified (GM) crop in the country. The Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) has already completed the second-stage Biosafety Research Trials (BRL-2) for four cotton hybrids that harbour two sets of traits - the first for insect resistance and the second for herbicide tolerance. The hybrids will, in all, incorporate three foreign genes: insect defence is controlled by cry1Ac and cry2Ab genes from Bacillus thuringiensis. The third gene, cp4-epsps provides the tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate.

The Mahyco cotton hybrids that have undergone confined BRL-1 and BRL-2 multi-location field tests over three seasons (2008, 2009 and 2010) are set to be the first GM crops in India to harbour herbicide-tolerance trait. Hybrids combine two Monsanto events: MON-15985 (which is already incorporated in the existing Bollgard-II cottons being grown since 2006) and MON-88913 (a new event). That would make them the first 'stacked event/trait' GM products to be introduced in the country.

After Bt Bringal, will Himachal GM Potato find acceptance?
Ravinder Makhaik, Himachal (India), March 28, 2011

Shimla: With pressure on improving productivity mounting to meet food needs of today and tomorrow, scientists at Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla (CPRI) have succeeded in developing a late blight disease resistance potato through genetic modification for boosting production and in a separate experiment have silenced a gene line to extend shelf life of a harvested potato for processing industry. One year trials for both experiments stand completed and permission from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GECA), the nodal body for GM experiments and permission for another year of field trial is awaited.

Whereas commercial production of GM potato has the potential to enhance India's food security, say the scientists, but those opposed to it consider it as mere propaganda to advance the cause of GM foods by overlooking health and safety concerns.

America

USA – Another DDT case?
Late last week USA Today's Life & Fitness section included a 1052-word attack on genetically-modified (GM) foods. The article then went on to quote at some length an assortment of GM food critics. A number of these people were interested parties representing the organic food industry, which markets itself as an alternative to GM food.

The bogus "monarch butterfly" scare drew widespread media attention a decade ago based on nothing - imagine if a real harm were detected - yet nothing has happened although GM crops are now planted and harvested around the globe. The main exception is Europe, which clings to its superstitions while agricultural progress passes it by without a second look.

The bogus "monarch butterfly" scare drew widespread media attention a decade ago based on nothing - imagine if a real harm were detected - yet nothing has happened although GM crops are now planted and harvested around the globe. The main exception is Europe, which clings to its superstitions while agricultural progress passes it by without a second look.

Pros and cons of genetically modified organisms
Cornell Daily Sun, March 2, 2011

The Sun recently published a series of opinion pieces debating the pros and cons of genetically modified organisms. In the interest of fostering further dialogue on the issue, The Sun solicited the opinions of several knowledgeable professors on the topic - in what will be the first in a series of debates on a host of controversial matters. The aim is to present a sampling of views, which in no way will be entirely comprehensive, but will hopefully allow readers to learn about different topics from a variety of perspectives and disciplines.

"One of the big arguments about G.M. crops is the problem it creates for organic growers. Organ ic growers decided themselves that being organic would mean having only a small percentage of their crops as G.M. There are G.M. crops that could be considered favorable for the environment."

The authors concluded that there are fewer changes in the plant genome -- in the overall expression of genes and proteins -- of G.E. crops compared to changes caused by traditional breeding or environmental conditions, like drought. "This indicates that the overall changes to the plant genome by G.M. are smaller than the natural variation caused by traditional breeding."

News in Science

Are soil-dwelling nematodes sensitive to genetically modified Bt maize?
Press Release - 8 March 201
press@gmo-safety.eu

Supported by Federal Ministry for Education and Research, Germany

Sebastian Höss of the Institute for Biodiversity in Regensburg has been studying nematodes in agricultural soils for years. Nematodes are very important for soil fertility. In one research project, Sebastian Höss and his team are therefore investigating whether nematodes are sensitive to a particular type of GM maize. No indications of sensitivity have been found so far. The research activities are documented in a report and a video clip.

Armed With US$40 Million, Global Research Team to Fight New Wheat Rust
Wind-borne wheat pathogen endangers food security worldwide
http://www.globalrust.org
ITHACA, NY (27 February 2011)-

The United Kingdom's Department of International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced they will invest US$40 million in a global project led by Cornell University to combat deadly strains of Ug99, an evolving wheat pathogen that poses a dangerous threat to global food security, particularly in the poorest nations of the developing world.

First discovered in 1998 in Uganda, the original Ug99 has also been found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran. A Global Cereal Rust Monitoring System, housed at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), suggests variants of Ug99 are on the march, threatening major wheat-growing areas of Southern and Eastern Africa, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America.

Non-GM Glyphosate Tolerant Flax
- Kelvin Heppner, March 15, 2011
http://www.portageonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21292&Itemid=469

Prairie farmers could soon have access to non-genetically modified, but glyphosate-tolerant, flax varieties.

Jim Radtke is the vice-president of product development with Cibus, a San Diego-based plant trait development company. "We're expecting it to reach the marketplace around the 2015, 2016 timeframe," he says.

Radtke explains they're able to create glyphosate-tolerant varieties through Cibus' Rapid Trait Development System (or RTDS.) "It's basically a form of mutagenesis. We're using the same techniques that plant breeders have used for many years to create new traits, except the difference is ours is quite targeted. We can go right to a piece of DNA and make the change we want to make," he says.

Impacts of GM Crops on Biodiversity
http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/article/15086/
- Janet E. Carpenter, GM Crops, Vol. 2, Issue 1, Jan/Feb/Mar2011

The potential impact of GM crops on biodiversity has been a topic of interest both in general as well as specifically in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Agricultural biodiversity has been defined at levels from genes to ecosystems that are involved or impacted by agricultural production (www.cbd.int/agro/whatis.shtml).

After fifteen years of commercial cultivation, a substantial body of literature now exists addressing the potential impacts of GM crops on the environment. This review takes a biodiversity lens to this literature, considering the impacts at three levels: the crop, farm and landscape scales. Within that framework, this review covers potential impacts of the introduction of genetically engineered crops on: crop diversity, biodiversity of wild relatives, non-target soil organisms, weeds, land use, non-target above-ground organisms, and area-wide pest suppression.

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