News in November 2004
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World Bank

The economic gains from using genetically modified (GM) crop technology in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Kym Anderson and Lee Ann Jackson are authors of a working paper released by the World Bank Group. The paper is a product of the Trade Team, Development Research Group, which aims to better understand the contributions of new technologies and trade policies to economic welfare of the developing world. The full paper is available at

 ISB News Report - November 2004

Contents... at

bullet Novel Genes for Control and Deterrence of Sucking Insect Pests
bullet Designer Constructs for T-DNA and Dissociation (Ds) Mediated Insertional Mutagenesis in Plants
bullet Aberrant mRNA Expression of Maize Rust Resistance Gene in Wheat and Barley
bullet Biotech Bug Conference Speakers Call for Regulation and Public Involvement
bullet Continued Losses Put Pressure on Monsanto Product Launch
bullet The Center for Food Safety Refutes Criticisms of its GM Rice Report

The proceedings of the latest National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) conference on Integrated Agricultural Research for Development – Achievements, Lessons Learnt and Best Practice, held Sept 1–4, 2004 in Entebbe, Uganda, have been released online. Download the proceedings at

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Genetically Modified Language: The Discourse of Arguments for GM Crops and Food
New book by Guy Cook, Routledge Press, UK. Hb: 0-415-31467-4; Pb: 0-415-31468-2

The author of the acclaimed Discourse of Advertising, Guy Cook is a leading expert on the communication of controversial technologies - on how companies (and governments) use language to persuade us that 'everything's alright, really, it is.

The Compendium of The Social Doctrine of the Church

Card. Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Gian Paolo Crepaldi, Pontifcal Council For Justice & Peace, Vatican City (Forwarded by Professor Vivian Moses)

This document represents the official catechism on the social doctrine approved by the Hole See and the Secretary of State. It was issued last week by Card. Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Gian Paolo Crepaldi (Pontifcal Council For Justice & Peace) and represents the official catechism on the social doctrine approved by the Hole See and the Secretary of State.

The following are extracts from Chapter 10 ("Safeguarding The Environment". Section 4 (A Common Responsibility, para. b is dedicate to the use of biotechnology - pp. 267-270):

  1. The Christian vision of creation makes a positive judgment on the acceptability of human intervention in nature.... nature is not a sacred or divine reality that man must leave alone..... the human person does not commit an illicit act when ... he intervenes by modifying some of their characteristics or properties.
  2. Modern biotechnologies have powerful social, economic and political impact locally, nationally and internationally.... above all the criteria of justice and solidarity must be taken into account
  3. Equitable commercial exchange, without the burden of unjust stipulations is to be facilitated...It is indispensable to foster the development of a necessary scientific and technological autonomy of the part of these same peoples, promoting the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge and the transfer of the technologies to developing countries
  4. Solidarity also means.... promoting trade policies that are favourable to their peoples and the exchange of technology that can improve the conditions of their food supply and health
  5. Entrepreneurs ... involved in the research, production and selling of products derived from new biotechnologies must take into account not only legitimate profit but also common good.... by their decisions... they can guide developments in the area of biotechnologies towards very promising ends, as far as concerns the fight against hunger, especially in poorer countries, the fight against disease ad the fight to safeguard the ecosystem....
  6. Public authorities must also encourage a correctly informed public opinion and make decisions that are best-suited to the common good
  7. Leaders in the information sector also have an important task, which must be undertaken with prudence and objectivity... The temptation to fall into superficial information, fuelled by over enthusiasm or unjustified alarmism, must be avoided

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The city of Montréal, Québec, Canada will host to a Conference on Plant Made Pharmaceuticals, from January 30 to February 2, 2005. Organized by the Society for Moleculture (formerly known as the international Association of Molecular Farming), the conference is funded by organizations using plant-factories to produce biopharmaceuticals, and promises to be a specialized event for experts in plant-factories and biopharmaceutical developments. For more information, visit

Media Invitation: European Initiative for Communicators of Science

EICOS 2005: Journalism meets science: Join a lab and experience science as it happens!

At the heart of the programme is the "Hands-on Laboratory", conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany. Journalists spend eight days working with scientists on actual projects, using state-of-the-art molecular biology methods.

The next "Hands-on Laboratory" will take place from May 28th to June 4th 2005.
Deadline for application: March 1st 2005.
Application form: Dr. Ulrich Kuhnt e-mail:
For further information, please contact: Andreas Trepte Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

FAO Workshop on Biotech

The  Food and Agriculture Organization will hold a workshop  on "The role of biotechnology for the characterization  and conservation of crop, forestry, animal and fishery  genetic resources" in Turin, Italy on 5-7 March 2005.  Co-organized with the Fondazione per le Biotecnologie,  the ECONOGENE project and the Societ? Italiana di Genetica Agraria, the workshop includes three sessions  on the status of the world's agro-biodiversity; the use  of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources;  and genetic characterisation of populations and its use  in conservation decision-making. See or  contact for  more information.

Biotech Challenges to be Explored In 2005 Forum:

harnessing the benefits of biotechnology, as well as producing results,  present a challenge to the Asian Scientific community. These challenges, as well as the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal aspects of the biotechnology industry will be discussed in the Asia Biotech Forum, to be held on the 3rd & 4th of February, 2005,  at the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Biotech  professionals and those associated with the industry are invited to attend. For more information, contact

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Food Research Projects Catalogue  -  New website available

Within the four calls of the Programme "Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources Programme" from 1999 to 2001, six deadlines for submission have been open for proposals for Key Action 1. This catalogue contains synopses of all of the projects that are funded following these deadlines. The projects have been sorted per area and listed by contract number within an area.

Scientists learning to deal with the press

Significant emphasis in current EU research programmes has been put on the importance of communicating scientific findings to the broader public, the aim being to bridge what studies highlighted as a widening gap between science and society. The Commission developed an action plan to tackle this problem and published a special guide to help scientists cope with public relations and curious journalists.

Consumer Trust in Food: Final Report Conference

On 22 November, the research team behind the "Consumer Trust in Food" project will present their final report to the press and key stakeholders in Brussels. This project has been funded under the Research Framework Programme of the European Union and has concentrated on the social and institutional conditions for trust and distrust in food in six European countries: Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Norway.

Seminar: Second seminar on Organic Food and Farming research in Europe

Brussels, Belgium, 26 November 2004

Promoting European Research into Structural Genomics

The European Commission's Directorate General for Research will be organising a major conference on Structural Genomics and Proteomics in Barcelona, Spain from 1-4 December, 2004. The conference will, for the first time, bring together 10 research projects in this area that are being funded by the EU?s Sixth Research Framework Programme (2002-2006) and it is expected to attract several hundred researchers, experts and policy-makers from the EU member states and beyond to discuss the achievements and to highlight best practices.

Making the most of Europe's research potential

Janez Potocnik, newly appointed Commissioner for Science and Research under the new Barroso Commission, wants to "make the most of the huge research potential in Europe" and to help build bridges between the Union and its citizens through science and technology. Yesterday's thumbs up from the European Parliament marks the start of an important journey for this Slovenian macro-economist.
New Website: European Commissioner for Science and Research - Janez Potocnik

Research Ethics Committees in Europe: facing the future together

Brussels, Belgium - 27-28 January 2005

The European Commission invites representatives of local or regional ethics committees in Europe to attend the conference "Research Ethics Committees in Europe: facing the future together" to open such a debate and will thus aim at gathering together as many RECs as possible in order to identify the state of the art. Good practices, obstacles and pitfalls will be considered, thus leading to the identification of future initiatives, actions and activities.

Structural Genomics & Proteomics Joint Meeting

Barcelona, 1-4 December 2004.

The main objective os this conference is to discover what makes the "European" label on this basic scientific field, which is starting to be competitive with the US and Japan big initiatives thanks to the FP6 collaborative projects effort. Another objective is to establish gateways with proteomics, a sister discipline with big potential in human health. A draft programme is available online.

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EMBO reports, vol. 4, no. 3,  pp 229-232, 2003;

Susan R. Owens,
'Reluctance within the European Union to accept genetically modified crops may hinder the benefits of this technology reaching the developing world'. The words "impractical and unenforceable" were used by the European food and drink association, the CIAA, to greet the European Union (EU) legislation on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food that is likely to become law later this month. The new ruling requires that all foods containing more than 0.5% GM products are labelled as such. Controversially, the ruling extends this to all highly processed products derived from GM crops that no longer contain any traces of the dubious GM DNA or protein, such as oils.


A 2004 study on genetically modified (GM) corn planted alongside conventional varieties in Germany showed that either variety can "co-exist" with the other, and as long as the crops are planted at least 20 meters apart. The announcement was made at a press conference in Berlin, just days before Germany’s lower house of Parliament is expected to give final approval to a new law that would strictly regulate GM crops. The test crop was performed at 30 locations in seven Federal States using GM corn line MON810, engineered to protect the crop against the European Corn Borer. With manpower from InnoPlanta in Gatersleben and the Federal Association of German Plant Breeders, as well as private farmers and state agricultural institutes in Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt, the project studied the extent of cross-hybridization between GM and conventional corn planted at varying distances from each other, taking into consideration all operational, regional, and climatic factors, and even the presence of pollen samples in beehives placed close to the experimental fields. For further information go to and , or download the press release at

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; Translation: Robert Derham,, October 29, 2004BERLIN –
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for more open-mindedness towards the use of genetic engineering.  "There is no ill-will towards the technology in Germany, rather an extreme reluctance to implement genetic engineering." Schroeder complained before the German Federal Council that there is a too restrictive stance that stems from the mindset of environmental movements, traditional technology skepticism and Christian motivations. "This is leading to a situation that weakens our market position and does not promote German innovation," said the German Chancellor.

Biotech Flax With Increased Omega-3 Levels Could Improve Human Health
Full story and references  at Enhanced flax seeds could bring the benefits of fish oil to vegetable-based cooking oils.

A team of researchers led by Ernst Heinz from the University of Hamburg in Germany has successfully developed a genetically enhanced flax (or linseed) plant that has boosted levels of healthful long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease, chance, Alzheimer's  and many other diseases.

As reported in the October issue of The Plant Cell, Heinz and his team inserted genes from algae and moss into flax plants to produce nutritionally significant amounts (about 5 percent) of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.


A new, 10-year strategy on food biotechnology has just been passed to the Parliament of Denmark, in an effort to free up funding to investigate the key role biotechnology could play in designing better tasting, safer foods, and ultimately the opportunity for higher quality, cheaper foods. For the full article, visit


The newly established Black Sea Biotechnology (BSB) Association - made up of Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine - has recently established a laboratory network for the analysis and control of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The laboratories will be part of the current network of GMO laboratories in the European Union (EU). In the BSB Association network, products made up of greater than 0.9% GMO should be specially labelled.


Italy accepts biotech crops but allows regions to ban them
AFP, Nov 11, 2004

The first ever consensus document on “Food Safety and GMOs,” signed by 18 respected Italian associations, and representing over 10,000 researchers, was launched in Milan, Italy on November 3, 2004 on the initiative of the Societa Italiana di Tossicologia (SITOX). Download the document from

ROME (AFP) - The Italian government gave the green light for genetically modified (GMO) crops but said regions were free to ban them if their citizens wished. Already 13 of the country's 20 regions, 27 provinces and nearly 1,500 towns and communities have proclaimed themselves "GMO-free zones" and they will be able to continue doing so. But Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno said decree adopted by the cabinet would allow for "coexistence" between opponents and supporters of biotech crops. The government has stressed the need to defend traditional farming methods as well as the right of consumers and producers to choose.


The Scientist, an online site of Biomed Central, quotes Stephane Vaxelaire of the French Ministry of Agriculture, as saying that the draft legislation to transpose EU Directive 2001/18/EC, which covers the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), could not be expected until 2005. See the full article in

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The Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization has adopted the Right to Food Guidelines that would "support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security." The Council is FAO’s executive governing body.

According to FAO, the Guidelines were conceived "to provide practical guidance" to help countries implement their obligations relating to the right to adequate food. It considers several human rights principles, “including equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability and the rule of law, as well as the principle that all human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-related and interdependent.”

Various non-governmental groups and intergovernmental organizations contributed significantly in the preparation of the Guidelines. These included the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Reporter on the Right to Food and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the North-South Alliance, which is a coalition of a large number of NGOs.

The guidelines, according to FAO, must be implemented to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. See the full article by John Riddle of FAO at

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Other countries

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

IFPRI Newsletter 'Forum', Oct. 2004

Masaru Iwanaga, director general of CIMMYT talked about the role of maize and wheat in world agriculture. At CIMMYT, for example, activities related to genetic engineering represent about 20 percent of the biotechnology effort and a small fraction of the Center's total budget. Most of our resources are allocated to the discovery of suitable DNA markers to incorporate numerous genes for target traits or environments into improved crop varieties.

Iwanaga: Obviously, improved maize and wheat varieties will continue to be developed via conventional (non-transgenic) means. There are a few transgenic products, such as maize with insect resistance based on gene constructs from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that could be delivered to small-scale farmers in developing countries, but delivery is hindered by the current debate and regulatory requirements. Thus, the prospect of such products reaching farmers in developing countries in the next five years are slim. Many farmers want such solutions, but will have to wait.

There is good reason to field test transgenic crops, but such testing should only come after developing countries implement regulatory systems for biotechnology. No field testing of transgenic crops can or should take place until authorities fully establish such systems. The global nature of agriculture today also slows testing and deployment. Given the global nature of the controversy, policymakers are unsure about the impact their decision on genetically modified organisms will have on trade, even for non-transgenic commodities, or on external aid for development projects.

In terms of what to regulate, more attention to the nature of the product as opposed to the method of production would help distinguish when a transgenic product is substantially different from conventional products. Today, all transgenics fall in the same category regardless of the trait or gene source, just to name two factors. In the not-so-distant future, transgenics using genes from the same species will be available. Appropriate regulatory systems to allow these to reach farmers should be considered now before the products are further developed. .Full interview at

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Priver Namanya of the Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Uganda recently reported that her team has developed a cell suspension system that is considered to be a critical step in the genetic improvement of the East African highland banana.

A number of diseases afflict Uganda’s banana crop, which is planted over 1.5 million hectares of arable land, and which serves the country’s population with 500 pounds of the crop per capita annually, one of the highest in the world. These include banana bacterial wilt disease, black sigatoka, fusarium wilt, and banana streak.
The method has also been adopted into an ongoing banana biotechnology project run in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), the International Network of Banana and Plantains, and Makerere University, among others.

For more information, visit KARI at

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Biotechnology will spur the second ‘Green Revolution,’ Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said as he spoke at the inaugural function of the second annual national conference of the Federation of Jain Educational Institutes (FJEI) in Jakkasandra, India.

There has been a 20% increase in yield in cotton production this year, thanks to the use of innovative biotechnology solutions and a good monsoon, Pawar said. He also emphasized the need for greater awareness of biotechnology, and urged educational institutions to train students in emerging areas of biotechnology and information technology, particularly in rural areas.

“Biotechnology has shown the world that quality is possible even without spraying chemicals. India has huge genetic wealth and can increase food production by using GM crops, thereby strengthening food security and delivering quality food products,” Pawar added.

The two-day conference is scheduled to deliberate on issues such as training, computerized administration, and maximizing infrastructure utilization.

Read the complete articles at and

Bharat Textile, November 8, 2004
Bt cotton boost India's cotton production Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said recently, Monsanto's Bt cotton has been a significant contributor to India's record cotton production this season.

"The Bt cotton yield was definitely better in quality and quantity, boosting production by 30-35% in areas it was sown. Gujarat has benefited the most from higher production," Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of the annual Social Editors' Conference here.

The higher yield and better cotton quality derived from Bt cotton could well be an incentive to look at other genetically modified agriculture crops being developed, the minister stated.

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China allocated a total budget of US$112 million (4.6 billion baht) for research and development on plant biotechnology in the year 2002. This programme involved at least 2,000 researchers working full time to try to the come up with new traits to benefit the agricultural systems of the country.

Land planted to genetically modified (GM) crops in China has increased since 1998, to nearly 3 million hectares at the end of 2003.

According to Luo Yunbo, president of the Food College of the Chinese University of Agricultural Sciences, the main transgenic crops in China are cotton, sweet pepper, and tomato. Approximately 90% of China’s cotton crop is derived from GM plants.

At present, China has approved 25 transgenic crop test and safety evaluation standards, and is about to formulate 15 more. Also in the offing are 42 transgenic crop test institutions.

For the complete article, visit

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USA - Stem cell research

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Proposition 71 provides $3 billion in state funding over next decade.

Californians came down on the side of stem-cell research Tuesday by passing a controversial bond measure that devotes $3 billion to human embryonic stem-cell experiments and comprises the biggest-ever state-supported scientific research program in the country. Proposition 71 was approved by a significant margin, NBC News projected.

Read also Nature, November 04, 2004 Vol. 432 No 7013:
Early embryos fuel hopes for shortcut to stem-cell creation

FDA Proposes Draft Guidance for Industry for New Plant Varieties Intended for Food Use - FDA Talk Paper, T04-52, November 19, 2004; Media Inquiries: 301-827-6242, Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

To address the possibility that material from a new plant variety intended for food use might inadvertently enter the food supply before its sponsor has fully consulted with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FDA is announcing the availability of a draft guidance document entitled "Guidance for Industry: Recommendations for the Early Food Safety Evaluation of New Non-Pesticidal Proteins Produced by New Plant Varieties Intended for Food Use."

The Potato Story

Wojciech K. Kaniewski and Peter E. Thomas of the Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, in Prosser, Washington, tell about new potato in the latest issue of Agbioforum.

Their article follows the development of transgenic potatoes in the United States, geared to be resistant to insects, such as the Colorado Potato Beetle; and viruses, such as the Potato Leafroll virus, both of which are the most economically important pests of potato in the world. Three lines have already been commercialized, the writers report, leading growers to save as much as US$ 78 per acre on insecticides, and export of lines to Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia. Read the complete article at For more articles, Access the full issue at

Researchers at the University of Illinois have recently identified a single-gene source of aphid resistance in soybean. The gene, tentatively designated Rag1, is dominant, making it easy to introduce into commercial varieties by backcrossing using marker-assisted selection. For more information, visit the National Soybean Research Laboratory at Read the complete article at

A study by a team from the College of Agricultural Sciences of the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC) have recently found that no traces of a "foreign" gene wound up in the flesh or blood of 56 piglets fed genetically modified (GM) corn. Read the complete story at

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Report on the Effects of Genetically Modified Maize in Mexico

The full report can be downloaded at: or

The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an international organization established by Canada, Mexico and the United States in a side accord to NAFTA, today released a landmark report on the effects of genetically modified maize in Mexico. The report was initiated in 2002 following a claim that genetically modified material ad been found amongst traditional Mexican varieties of maize despite a moratorium on its planting. The Mexican government confirmed earlier this year that that 7.6 percent of plants tested in 2001 had traces of GM material.

The report also says that "Regulatory agencies of the three countries should develop and implement better methods for detecting and monitoring the spread of specific transgenes. [...and that] the modification of maize to produce pharmaceuticals and certain industrial compounds that are incompatible with food and feed should be prohibited in accordance with Mexican Government intentions, and serious consideration should be given to banning such use for maize in other countries."

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Honolulu Advertiser, 10 November 2004

The Hawai'i Papaya Association is writing to respond to letters criticizing the genetically modified (GMO) Rainbow papaya, which is resistant to papaya ringspot virus. Rainbow papaya is the reason we're still in business. Without it, we wouldn't have trees to grow or fruit to sell. Instead of 350 to 400 papaya farmers in the state, there might be 50. Kenneth Y. Kamiya, Hawai'i Papaya Industry Association

In Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond, Dennis Gonsalves of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) looks at the progress made by Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV) resistant papaya, from the laboratory, to the field, and into markets worldwide. The paper is published in the latest issue of Agbioforum. Read the complete article at For more articles, Access the full issue at

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New results

Sterile male potatoes 'make GM field trials safe' - SciDev.Net, By Mike Shanahan, 12 November 2004

A genetically modified (GM) variety of potato able to resist a major crop pest does not threaten other organisms, and - because the plants produce no viable pollen - is unlikely to pass genes to related varieties, according to research published yesterday (11 November) in Nature.


There is no basis for invoking the precautionary principle to bar genetically modified nematode-resistant (GMNR)-cystin potato trials for their impact on non-target soil microbes and fauna or associates of the crop’s foliage. This was the view forwarded by Carolina Celis of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues in a November 11, 2004 article in Nature. Celis and colleagues suggest that “transgenic planting should be limited to male sterile cultivars while concerns over possible introgression of any given trait are evaluated over several generations of random mating among individuals of a wild species by defined methods.”


In a paper in the December Issue of The Plant Journal, Dr. Daniel R. Gallie and his research team at the University of California, Riverside report that ACC synthase Expression Regulates Leaf Performance and Drought Tolerance in Maize. For more information, visit

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