News in May 2012
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2012-06-02

Global - General

AgBioView
www.agbioworld.org
Dear Readers:

I am sorry about the long pause in the AgBioView newsletter. I have been doing this single handedly for the past thirteen years. I just took a break from the newsletter for absolutely no reason.

Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter as I post links to emerging news and interesting articles in real time. Go http://www.facebook.com/agbioworld

and also http://twitter.com/#AgBioWorld

- C. S. Prakash

GM benefits are plain to see
By Truth About Trade & Technology Editor on May 29, 2012 10:45 pm
The Land (Australia); Author: By David Leyonhjelm; May 29, 2012
Website: http://theland.farmonline.com.au

IF CROP biotechnology had not been available to the 15.4 million farmers using it in 2010, maintaining global food production would have required additional plantings of 5.1 million hectares of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 3 million ha of cotton and 0.35 million ha of canola. That is equivalent, in total, to 54 per cent of Australia’s total cropping area.

Moreover, world prices of key food commodities would have been significantly higher. Between 1996 and 2010, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 97.5 million tonnes of soybeans, 159.4 million tonnes of corn, 12.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 6.1 million tonnes of canola.

Books & Articles

Czech scientists uncover déjà vu mystery
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_12_05_25_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=24933

In a groundbreaking study, researchers from the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom have discovered a link between the déjà vu phenomenon and structures in the human brain, effectively confirming the neurological origin of this phenomenon. Despite past studies investigating this phenomenon in healthy individuals, no concrete evidence had ever emerged ... until now. The study, presented in the journal Cortex, was funded in part by the EU.


Déjà vu
© Archive CEITEC

Led by the Central European Institute of Technology, Masaryk University (CEITEC MU) and Masaryk University's Faculty of Medicine in the Czech Republic, researchers discovered that specific brain structures have a direct impact on the déjà vu experience. The findings of their study showed that the size of these structures are considerably smaller in the brains of the people experiencing déjà vu, compared with individuals who had no personal experience with déjà vu.

The team from CEITEC MU, along with colleagues from other Brno research institutions as well as the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom succeeded in providing huge insight into this phenomenon that has perplexed many over the years.

The team observed how small structures in the brain's medial temporal lobes, in which memory and recollections originate, were considerably smaller in individuals with the occurrence of déjà vu than in individuals who have not experienced déjà vu. Their findings also showed that the more often the examined individuals experience déjà vu, the smaller the brain structures are.

'One hundred and thirteen healthy subjects underwent a structural examination of their brain by means of magnetic resonance and subsequently by using a new sensitive method for an automatic analysis of brain morphology (source-based morphometry) [and] the size of individual brain regions was compared among the individuals who have never experienced déjà vu and those who have experienced it,' said lead author Milan Brázdil from CEITEC.

'Except for the presence of the examined phenomenon, both groups of individuals were fully comparable. When we stimulate the hippocampus, we are able to induce déjà vu in neurological patients. By finding the structural differences in hippocampus in healthy individuals who do and do not experience déjà vu, we have unambiguously proved that déjà vu is directly linked to the function of these brain structures. We think that it is probably a certain small "error in the system" caused by higher excitability of hippocampuses. It is the consequence of changes in the most sensitive brain regions which probably occurred in the course of the development of the neural system.'

Experts say déjà vu, while fascinating, is not an uncommon experience. Between 60% and 80% of healthy individuals have reported occasional occurrences of déjà vu.

The team's research will continue under CEITEC MU with funding from the EU.

Revised Sugar Labeling Needed to Protect Consumers
Fod & Beverage Analysis, Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012; Updated: May 30, 2012
http://www.technologynetworks.com/FAB//news.aspx?ID=139813

A recent paper published by a Yale Rudd Center researcher highlights how more displaying information about sugar on food packages is necessary, achievable and overdue.

Events

Nominations to attend this year's Global Farmer Roundtable are open. The deadline is Friday, June 29. However, space is limited and is filling fast, so nominations should be submitted as soon as possible. Farmers from around the world invited to participate will be officially contacted after the deadline.

This year's event hosted by Truth About Trade & Technology (TATT) is scheduled to be held the week of October 15-19, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa USA - during the same week of The World Food Prize Symposium. Farmers invited to participate will receive a travel grant covering their airline, hotel, and the registration cost for the Symposium itself.

The Global Farmer Roundtable section of the TATT website has some information about past events and lists of the Global Farmer Network members who have participated since the event began in 2006. There is also a section highlighting the recipients of the Kleckner Award.

Nominations can be submitted using the online form available at the Truth About Trade & Technology website.

Nomination form: http://www.truthabouttrade.org/nomination-form

2012 EUROPEAN INDUSTRIAL BIOENERGY INITIATIVE CONFERENCE
5 June 2012, Brussels
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=2D304246-F139-B469-7B52295CAA70E6CB

The Team of the SET-Plan European Industrial Bioenergy Initiative (EIBI) is organising a first conference open to all stakeholders and interested parties. The aim of this conference is to provide key decision makers, financing institutions, media and the general public with a better and more in-depth understanding of both the urgency and benefits to fully implement the EIBI roadmap and to invest in the EIBI projects.

Info Day and Brokerage Event on Call FP7-KBBE-7-2013 - 16 July 2012, Brussels

http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=2CD6E150-A90D-4D67-3A71C002DF38DFBC

Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology Info Day and Brokerage Event on Call FP7-KBBE-7-2013.The objective of the event is to bring together research stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors from the EU and Third Countries, together with Commission officers and provide information and ground for discussion and networking.

Research and Innovation at the Green Week 2012
24 May 2012, Brussels, Charlemagne Building, Salon Rouge
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=26CF9B9A-A2EE-4D81-32834A8F2BEF2D3F

At the eve of the Rio+20 Conference, the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation is taking stock on the EU efforts on a sustainable use of water and organises the side session: Water resources for sustainable development - an overview of the international dimension of EU research results from Johannesburg to Rio+20.

SynBIOsis Final Conference - Maximizing Synergies for Central European Biotech Research Infrastructures - 29 May 2012, Brussels
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=602CBA07-F139-D405-2675534D3CF75919

Scope of the conference is to present the process outlined during the project execution that has allowed to progressively create a solid cooperation between universities, research driven clusters and businesses in the fields covering the intersections of biotechnology, nanotechnology and ICT. These good practices, already tested in South Moravia and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions and highly replicable in other European backgrounds, could likely contribute in optimizing the utilization of the European Structural Funds earmarked for research and innovation.

Biodiversity in the Food Supply Chain: Workshop for the Food and Retail Sector
Date: 20 June 2012
Location: Bonn, Germany

The food processing industry and the food retail industry do not have many direct effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services. They can however have a large influence in their supply chain, that often includes many suppliers and that can be several levels deep. How biodiversity aspects can be integrated in the procurement process will be shown on June 20th 2012 during a day-long workshop that is organised by the Global Nature Fund and the Lake Constance Foundation, together with the German company REWE Group.

FP7 Information Day on the call: FP7-CDRP-2013-INCUBATORS
Info Day and Brokerage Event on Call FP7-KBBE-7-2013
16 July 2012, Brussels

Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology Info Day and Brokerage Event on Call FP7-KBBE-7-2013.

The objective of the event is to bring together research stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors from the EU and Third Countries, together with Commission officers and provide information and ground for discussion and networking.

http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=2CD6E150-A90D-4D67-3A71C002DF38DFBC

Genomic Research Europe
Frankfurt 4-5 September
(1) AgriGenomics + +
http://selectbiosciences.com/conferences/index.aspx?conf=AG2012
Agenda Topics
bulletDisease resistance in livestock
bulletEnhancing plant resistance to disease
bulletGenetic engineering to increase yield from livestock
bulletOptimisation of growth for food and biofuel
bulletRNA silencing mechanisms in plants
bulletThe use of microarrays and bioinformatics
(2) RNAi & miRNA
http://selectbiosciences.com/conferences/index.aspx?conf=RNAiE2012
Agenda Topics
bulletDelivery Techniques
bulletLNA Technologies
bulletmicroRNAs in
bulletBiogenesis and Development
bulletCancer, Disease Biology and Virology
bulletDiagnostics
bulletStem Cell Biology
bulletRegulatory RNAs
bulletRNAi Therapeutics
bulletsiRNA and RNAi Screening and Optimisation
bulletTarget Discovery and Validation
(3) Epigenetics Europe
http://selectbiosciences.com/conferences/index.aspx?conf=EE2012
Agenda Topics
bulletChromatin mechanism in epigenetic marking
bulletEpigenetic processes in disease, epigenomics
bulletEpigenetic re-programming, stem cells and genome dynamics
bulletNon-coding RNA and gene silencing
bulletNuclear dynamics and long-range control
bulletParental imprinting, dosage compensation and monoallelic expression
(4) Advances in qPCR
http://selectbiosciences.com/conferences/index.aspx?conf=QPCRE2012
Agenda Topics
bulletBioStatistics & Bioinformatics
bulletChip / location analysis
bulletDetection of Tumour Cells
bulletExpression Profiling
bulletHigh Resolution Melt
bulletLATE-PCR and its Allied Technologies
bulletmicroRNA/siRNA Applications
bulletqPCR in Diagnostics
bulletSingle Cell qPCR

Europe - EU

GMO Safety editorial team aboutGM plants in Europe
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/news/1416.plant-research-europe-genetic-engineering-field-trials.html

The number of release experiments with GM plants in Europe is decreasing all the time. The only exception is Spain, where major companies are carrying out a series of field trials. Only a few of the new releases relate to research and development projects involving plants with new or improved traits. The widespread public opposition to GM plants is making the environment surrounding research and authorisation increasingly difficult. Science and industry are responding in different ways.

By May 2012, only 41 new release applications had been submitted for GM plants in the European Union in 2012. Over 100 new applications were submitted in 2009, but the numbers have been falling steadily since then. 30 of the new applications for 2012 come from Spain. The remaining 11 come from Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Europe

Fanatics in action
http://www.spiked-online.com

A group of scientists at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire is currently trying to genetically modify wheat so that - and this sounds incredible - it will produce a pheromone called E-beta-farnesene. For those, like me, who have gained their knowledge of pheromones almost entirely from Lynx deodorant adverts, this particular one is emitted by aphids when they are threatened. So, when they smell it, they fly away. Not only that, when the insects that like to eat aphids - ladybirds, for instance - get a whiff, they will head over to said crop in the hope of some lunch.

Yet, with every potential scientific advance, especially one that involves genetic modification - or ‘messing with nature’ as the environmental zealot would have it - there is often a small group of underemployed, stunt-loving and trust-funded activists all too keen to don a naff costume and put a stop to it. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when fears over the consequences of genetic modification were at their height, such campaigners - often sporting anti-contamination boiler suits - could be found raiding and destroying test crop sites. So it is, once again, with the aphid-repelling wheat crops.

Nature, Volume: 485, pp 147–148 Date published: (10 May 2012)

Plant scientists at Rothamsted Research, a complex of buildings and fields in Hertfordshire, UK, that prides itself on being the longest-running agricultural research station in the world, have spent years preparing for their latest experiment — which will attempt to prove the usefulness of a genetically modified (GM) wheat that emits an aphid alarm pheromone, potentially reducing aphid infestation.

Yet instead of looking forward to watching their crop grow, the Rothamsted scientists are nervously counting the days until 27 May, when protesters against GM crops have promised to turn up in force and destroy the experimental plots.

The protest group, it must be acknowledged, has a great name — Take the Flour Back. And it no doubt believes that it has the sympathy of the public. The reputation of GM crops and food in Britain, and in much of mainland Europe, has yet to recover from the battering it took in the late 1990s. In Germany, the routine destruction of crops by protesters has meant that scientists there simply don't bother to conduct GM experiments any more.

May 28.

The planned direct action against the GM wheat experiment at Rothamsted did not happen yesterday. The Take the Flour Back group did not have enough support to storm the field and the local police kept them off Rothamsted’s grounds. Last night hackers attacked Rothamsted Research’s website but it is now back online. Your support has not only helped the scientists bear up under the pressure of the last few weeks but also made the threat to their research retreat in the face of opposition. There has been lots of media coverage in the last few days, including editorials in the Observer and the Times and articles in the Telegraph and Independent.

Africa

GM regulators
George Achia ; SciDev.Net May 30, 2012
Website – www.scidev.net

[NAIROBI] In efforts to harmonise national biosafety regulations across Africa, the links between national regulatory authorities and key stakeholders must be strengthened, say experts at the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE).

Many of the continent’s science and agriculture ministers endorsed the use of biotechnology to address poverty and food insecurity at an annual dialogue held last month (18-19 April) in Accra, Ghana.

But biosafety regulations in many of those countries still need to be established.

“Countries should learn from one another to avoid reinventing the wheel,” said Samuel Timpo, senior programme officer at ABNE, which is run by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Science Meets Farming in Africa
By Calestous Juma
Science 9 December 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6061 p. 1323
http://www.sciencemag.org

(Calestous Juma is professor of the Practice of International Development at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. He is former executive director of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.)

The role of science, technology, and engineering in solving Africa's most challenging economic problems—from telecommunications to agriculture to infectious diseases—is no longer in question. However, some leading international organizations undermine the role of innovation in development. The time has come for the scientific community to advance a new generation of international organizations that expressly promote scientific cooperation—agencies that can help foster technological cooperation for Africa's economic transformation.

Calestous Juma called for African countries to form an "International Institute for Biotechnology" that would bring together entities like government agencies, farmer groups, research institutions, and private sector companies to make biotechnology a positive force for African agriculture. Protecting the interests of and giving voice to the world's poor is essential to implementing GM crops successfully. Organizations like Professor Juma's proposed collaboration could help lead the way forward.

Asia

Hawaii’s Biotech Papayas Hold a Lesson for America
Editorials, Guest Commentary — By Ken Kamiya on May 31, 2012
http://www.truthabouttrade.org/2012/05/31/

A new supply of fresh papayas from Hawaii will reach grocery-store shelves in Japan this year and consumers have biotechnology to thank for it.

The first “Rainbow” papayas–genetically modified to withstand the deadly ringspot virus—are now on sale. They are the first GM food Japan has approved for commercial release.

It represents an important step for a country that has resisted a technology that is now conventional in North and South America and increasingly common in Africa and Asia.

In the middle of the 20th century, as Hawaiian papaya farmers started to enjoy commercial success, the ringspot virus appeared almost out of nowhere to threaten our livelihood. For a while, we were able to contain its spread by destroying infected papaya trees. Yet this was a drastic remedy. One year, I had to cut down half my orchard.

By the 1990s, however, it was almost pointless for Hawaiian farmers to raise papayas. The risk of crop failure was too high. I stopped growing the fruit and so did most of my neighbours.

Meanwhile, scientists worked on the problem. Dennis Gonsalves, then of Cornell University, learned how to take a piece of the ringspot virus and use it to “inoculate” trees, much as vaccines can improve immunity against diseases in people. In 1998, we started to sell GM papayas, which are just as healthy and delicious as the ones they replaced. This simple innovation saved Hawaiian papayas. The ringspot virus is still out there, ready to wreak havoc–but it won’t infect any of the trees that descend from the innovation of Gonsalves.

Japan was our most important export market and its government refused to allow the importation of GM papayas. In 1996, Hawaiian farmers sold more than $15 million in papayas to Japan. By 2010, this figure had dropped to about $1 million.

The Japanese had nothing to worry about: GM papayas underwent strict regulatory testing in the United States. In fairness, however, biotech food was still a new phenomenon. The Japanese were simply exercising caution. As time passed, however, it became clear that they were cautious to a fault, as the arguments against GM food collapsed in the face of scientific data and consumer acceptance.

Yet pockets of resistance remain. Europeans remain deeply skeptical of GM food. In India, politicians have failed to approve GM brinjal (eggplant), even though its commercialization would improve the food security of a nation that struggles to feed its surging population.

In the United States, where biotech food is well accepted, activists crusade against it. They demand labels for GM food, but their real agenda is to sow confusion, raise anxieties, and, in the case of organic-food groups that are putting money behind these initiatives, give themselves a competitive advantage.

In Japan, GM papayas carry labels. The response of consumers will tell us a lot. Will they choose to buy Hawaiian papayas, which are some of the best on the planet, and return market share to the growers who enjoyed it a generation ago? Or will they avoid these nutritious fruits because the labels scare them away?

Ken Kamiya has grown papaya in Hawaii for almost 40 years. The “Kamiya” papaya is named in recognition of his work in the industry. Mr. Kamiya is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network.

America

Analysis of U.S. Genetically Engineered Crop Regulation and Litigation
Esther E. McGinnis Mary H. Meyer and Alan G. Smith
Crop Science Vol. 52 No. 3, p. 991-1002,
Received:Aug 18 , 2011
https://www.crops.org/publications

The commercial potential of genetically engineered (GE) crops has not been fully realized in the United States. Over the past decade, environmental litigation dramatically affected the pace of GE crop development, testing, and deregulation. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates GE organisms that may pose a risk to plant or animal health. However, recent litigation initiated by nongovernmental organizations such as the Center for Food Safety and the International Center for Technology Assessment has exposed APHIS's vulnerability to lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for failing to assess the environmental risks of novel GE crops. In these cases, APHIS committed two types of mistakes. First, APHIS did not differentiate between traditional GE crops whose risks are well characterized and novel GE crops that may raise unique environmental risks and societal issues based on their distinctive biology. Consequently, it did not adequately evaluate the legally defined environmental risks of these novel crops. Second, APHIS did not fully appreciate NEPA's sweeping scope and focus on procedural compliance to ensure transparent and thorough environmental decision making. As a result, APHIS impeded the development and commercialization of GE crops and must take a more defensive posture in the future to deter costly and lengthy NEPA litigation in the case of novel GE crops.

IFIC, May 10, 2012
http://www.foodinsight.org/Press-Release

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) 2012 "Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology & Sustainability" survey shows that Americans remain highly supportive of existing federal rules for labeling foods produced through biotechnology and very few cite biotechnology as an information need on the food label.

Seventy-six percent of consumers could not think of any additional information (other than what is already required) that they wish to see on food labels. Of the 24 percent who wanted more information, 36 percent wanted information related to nutritional content; 19 percent wanted more information about ingredients; and 18 percent wanted more food safety related information, such as possible allergens. Only three percent of the 24 percent subset (or about five people and less than one percent of all surveyed) wanted more information about biotechnology. In addition, eighty-seven percent of Americans say they have not taken any action out of concern about biotechnology.

And when consumers were presented with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology, which calls for labeling only when the food’s nutritional content or its composition is changed, or when a potential safety issue is identified, 66 percent of respondents indicated their support for the policy.

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