News in August 2005
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The AFBF Biotechnology Conference will be held July 29 at the Indiana Farm Bureau headquarters in Indianapolis. "The conference is appropriate for anyone with an interest in the current biotechnology situation in the United States and around the world, as well as the outlook for agricultural biotechnology," says Mark Maslyn, AFBF executive director of public policy. More information available with


Human Safety and Genetically Modified Plants - A Review of Antibiotic Resistance Markers and Future Transformation Selection Technologies.
Goldstein, D., Tinland, B., Gilbertson, L., Staub, J., Bannon, G., Goodman, R., McCoy, R., Silvanoch, A. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 99: 7-23.

Very important discovery of plant system of antibiotic resistance as been Published in Nature online: 21 August 2005; see Mentewab A. & Stewart C. Nature Biotech., Advanced Online Publication. doi: 10.1038/nbt1134 (2005).

The authors identified the gene called Atwbc19 i that encodes an Arabidopsis thaliana ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter and also confers antibiotic resistance. When expressed at unusually high levels it helps to capture and squelch antibiotic compounds. Atwbc19 is an endogenous gene to plans so that transfer to bacteria cannot occur. This finding removes one of obligatory “precautionary safety concern” of GMO.

Medical journals struggling to unearth research fraud Two top UK medical journals highlight how investigations of research fraud in published papers face serious obstacles.

"The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science By Nils Roll-Hansen, Humanity Books, 335pp, ISBN 1 59102 262 2"

The Protectionist Nature of Brussels Precautionary Regulations
From the desk of Carlo Stagnaro on Mon, 2005-08-15 21:14

Reports of Superweed Greatly Exaggerated New Scientist, July 30, 2005
A freak event in south-west England has transformed a lowly weed into a "superweed" capable of fending off herbicide attacks. Or has it?
Scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Dorset, UK, tested the herbicide glufosinate ammonium on weeds growing in fields of oilseed rape modified to carry a herbicide resistance gene. A single charlock plant carried on growing, triggering concerns that the resistance gene had jumped from the GM crop.
But this is not proof that gene transfer has taken place, says Les Firbank, head of land use systems at CEH. "And even if it did occur, it's not a superweed, because there's no sign it can produce viable seeds." Lab tests show that gene transfer is possible between GM oilseed rape (Brassica napus ) and closely related field mustard (B. rapa ). But there is no proof that it has happened between oilseed rape and the more distantly related charlock, Sinapis arvensis . Charlock may instead have evolved its own resistance.
"Contrary to some media reports, the so-called hybrid has not been confirmed by researchers as a cross between oilseed rape and charlock," says UK environment minister Elliot Morley, "but it is a finding we cannot ignore." In the wake of the media attention the German biotech company Bayer has withdrawn its application to grow GM oilseed rape in the EU. It was the only company to have applied for permission to grow GM rape commercially in Europe.

GM Crops - 'Scaremongering' - The Times (London), July 29, 2005  From the Deputy Chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council
Sir, Your report headlined "GM crops produce a poisonous mutant superweed in the fields" (some editions, July 26) amounts to little more than scaremongering. The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who published the research on which the story was based, has issued a statement which says: “Hybrids between the two species referred to in the study (oil seed rape and Sinapis arvensis) are not only rare, but previous studies have shown they do not produce viable seeds. Thus they do not persist -and so are not weeds, let alone superweeds.” GM crops have an important role to play in future farming and agriculture and it is essential that their development is considered within the context of a sensible and informed debate. We cannot achieve this balance when important research is distorted and misrepresented in the media. - Tony Combes,

The ITSSD (Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development) recently posted an important new white paper on its website.  Precautionary Preference – How Europe`s New Regulatory Protectionism Imperils American Free Enterprise. By Lawrence A. Kogan, Esq. ee

The Full Version is accessible at: Papers/PrecautionaryPreference-EURegProtectionism-FULLVERSION.pdf

The Executive Summary is accessible at: Papers/PrecautionaryPreference-EURegProtectionism-EXECSUMM.pdf

The white paper documents how Europe is attempting to inject the precautionary principle within the U.S. for the purpose of changing U.S. law and business practices. The white paper also discusses how this effort threatens the American legal and free enterprise systems that serve as the cornerstone of the U.S. national economy and America's comparative advantage in international trade. It focuses on a number of regulated areas, including biotechnology.

In comment to this white paper Mark Cantley, Adviser, Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Research Directorate-General European Commission referred to the the European Commission's communication on the precautionary principle, reference COM(2000)1.  „This engaged the efforts of over 20 staff from many services of the Commission during more than a year, and it was not by accident that it received the first reference number of the new millennium - we saw it as a communication of outstanding importance, given the growing pressure from the political side for more explicit attention to the precautionary principle, within Europe and in international instruments such as the Cartagena Protocol on BioSafety.“

In the Summary of the communication, paragraph 6 provides this résumé of the key points, iscussed in more detail elsewhere in the Summary, and more fully in the body of the paper: "Where action is deemed necessary, measures based on the precautionary principle should be, inter alia:

bulletproportional to the chosen level of protection,
bulletnon-discriminatory in their application,
bulletconsistent with similar measures already taken,
bulletbased on an examination of the potential benefits and costs of action or lack of action (including, where appropriate and feasible, an economic cost/benefit analysis),
bulletsubject to review, in the light of new scientific data, and
bulletcapable of assigning responsibility for producing the scientific evidence necessary for a more comprehensive risk assessment."


The greatest problems of plants in tropical climates are drought and high temperature stress. The latter inhibits plant photosynthesis, disabling nutrient accumulation and stunting plant growth. Plants have been known to also accumulate certain chemical compounds under salinity, drought, and temperature stress. One of these chemicals, glycinebetaine (GB), is the subject of a recent study, where Xinghong Yang and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Plant Physiology report that the "Genetic Engineering of the Biosynthesis of Glycinebetaine Enhances Photosynthesis against High Temperature Stress in Transgenic Tobacco Plants." Their findings appear in the latest issue of Plant Physiology.

CROATIA PASSES LAW ON GMOS - Crop Biotech Update, August 26, 2005

The Croatian Government passed a new law on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) that replaced the "biotechnology-regulating provisions" of the Law on Protection of Nature. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that the new law stipulates that the Ministry of Health will become the lead ministry for all biotech issues.

Previously, the Law on Protection of Nature and the Food Law including future sub-laws regulated the importation, transshipment, production, usage, and sale of products of agricultural biotech products (including all food, feed and seed). The GMO Law removed the previous provisions regarding biotechnology in the Law on Protection of Nature and replaced them as a new separate piece of legislation. The Food Law remains as the main law for regulating biotech food and feed.

Argentina OKs new GMO corn developed by Syngenta 
- Reuters, August 23, 2005 BUENOS AIRES –
Argentina, the world's No.2 corn exporter, approved on Monday a new genetically modified (GMO) corn made by Swiss firm Syngenta. The variety, known as GA21, is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, just like Roundup Ready corn developed by Monsanto. The government forecasts that farmers will seed between 3.0 million and 3.1 million hectares with corn this season, down from 3.32 million hectares in the 2004/05 crop year, mainly because GMO soybeans are cheaper and easier to grow.

Beating world hunger: the return of 'neglected' crops. T. V. Padma reports on efforts to tackle hunger and malnutrition by promoting traditional crops that have been neglected by international agricultural research.

Malaysian biotech 'hindered by ethnic favouritism' David Cyranoski reports on how ethnic favouritism is affecting Malaysia's ambitions to harness science as a tool for economic growth. (Source: Nature)

No Evidence' GM Genes Are Still In Local Mexican Maize; Four Years On, No Transgenes Found In Mexican Maize- Emma Marris Nature, Published online: 8 August 2005; |
'Corn found to be free of GM contamination. A grand survey of 150,000 corn seeds has shown up no contamination.'

The inverse-PCR methodology used by Quist and Chapela soon came under fire, however, and Nature stated that it would not have published the paper if the criticisms had cropped up while the paper was under review. But even so, few experts questioned the basic finding that some transgenes had flowed into Mexican maize.

- Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net, August 9, 2005
Research published today (9 August) says that there is no evidence to support controversial claims made in 2001 that genetically modified (GM) maize had 'contaminated' local varieties of the crop in Mexico.
In 2001, Nature published research showing that genes from GM maize had entered wild maize in the Mexican state of Oaxaca despite the country not allowing GM maize to be grown at the time (see GM maize found 'contaminating' wild strains).

GM potato uses frog gene to resist pathogens. Researchers have genetically modified potatoes to resist disease-causing organisms by making them produce a chemical normally found in frogs' skin.

GM rice 'could reduce reliance on phosphate fertiliser'. Chinese researchers say a gene that allows rice to grow well in soil lacking phosphate could help overcome the need for costly and polluting fertilisers.

Major methane emitter identified in Asian rice fields. Researchers have identified a group of microbes that help make Asia's rice fields one of the world's major sources of the greenhouse gas methane.

Scorpion gene gives plants a sting in their tail. Scientists who have put two animal genes into oilseed rape plants to make them poisonous to insect pests say their approach reduces the risk of insects becoming resistant to the toxins.

GM plant produces non-GM watermelon. Researchers have combined genetic modification with traditional plant grafting techniques to produce non-GM watermelons that can resist a potent plant virus.

Mexico to map its people's genes. A project launched this week in Mexico aims to map the 'Mexican genome' to find genetic links to diseases common there.

Sorghum to be the Second Cereal Crop Sequenced

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - The National Sorghum Producers (NSP) announced that sorghum will be the second cereal crop genome to be sequenced.

Citing information from the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Computation Genomics Program Head Dr. Daniel Rokhsar, sorghum has been targeted for sequencing in 2006. The JGI was instrumental in sequencing the human genome.

University of Bath Scientists at the University of Bath will be taking part in an international ?4.2 million ($7.5 million) research project that could help millions of people avoid starvation. The BioCassava Plus project will improve the nutritional and storage properties of cassava (Manihot esculenta), the primary food source for more than 250 million Africans and a substantial portion of the diet of nearly 600 million people worldwide. The research is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through a partnership based at Ohio State University. Scientists from the University of Bath will receive over ?300,000 to support their part in the project.

India's biotech sector: boom or bust. India's biotechnology sector is thriving, but K. S. Jayaraman asks whether simply increasing investment will be enough to sustain it. (Source: Nature)

Indian GM cotton is 'inadequate'; enquiry demanded. A study has corroborated Indian farmers' claims that genetically modified cotton is failing to kill insect pests as intended.

Newsletter on OECD activities related o biotechnology can be downloaded at

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