News in February 2006
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Database of Articles on GM Crop Plants The Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities is an association of seven academies of sciences and humanities created to promote scientific exchange and high quality research. The "Green Biotechnology" Commission of the Union has compiled a database containing about 240 publications on various aspects of genetically modified crop plants, with the aim of providing an overview of agricultural biotechnology applications in developing countries.

The collection contains, in addition to many original publications, extensive reviews produced by organizations such as the Royal Society, the International Council for Science, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as well as introductions to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety by the World Conservation Union and the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Global Reviews of Commercialized Transgenic Crops published by ISAAA are also included in this database.

For more information and to access the database visit:

The Man Who Fed the World:  Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger (Durban House Publishing, September 2006, hardcover, $24.95)


OECD Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Committee for Agriculture AGR/CA/APM(2005)24/FINAL


“Getting prepared for the 7th Framework Programme and Finding Partners in Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology Research”, Vienna , May 16 - 17 2006.

The role of precaution in GMO policy
18th - 19th April 2006

Hofburg Kongresszentrum & Redoutensäle, Heldenplatz, A-1014 Vienna

the Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency) kindly invites you to the above-mentioned conference in Vienna on behalf of the Austrian Ministry of Health and Women, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management

Innogen Annual Conference 2006, Location: London, United Kingdom
Date: 5 - 6 September 2006

Innogen, the ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics, is holding its annual conference in September 2006 on 'Genomics for Development? The Life Sciences and Poverty Reduction'.

BES Annual Symposium: Ecological limits to sustainable development.

Location: Edinburgh University, UK, Date: 10 - 11 April 2006

International workshop on crop and forage production using saline waters in dry areas

Location: Birjand, Iran, Date: 7 - 10 May 2006

Co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops - Freedom of choice. Vienna, 4-6 April 2006

Announcing OECD Forum 2006 - “ Balancing Globalisation
Centre de Conférences Internationales, Paris, 22-23 May 2006

Biotech & Finance Forum (11th edition) on 8 May 2006 in Munich

Supported by the European Commission and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology the Forum continues to facilitate networking between Europe's private fast-growing biotech companies and investors and corporate contacts all looking for partnerships and possibilities of cooperation. For more information please contact Europe Unlimited, Anneli Prohaska on or +32 2 643 36 90.

BioVisionAlexandria 2006 - Alexandria, Egypt. April 26- 29, 2006

Entitled 'The New Life Sciences: Changing Lives', BioVisionAlexandria 2006 is an international conference organized in partnership with The World Life Sciences Forum - BioVision

EuropaBio offers a free of charge platform to profile yourself as a potential conference speaker!   This is a unique opportunity to share your knowledge with the biotech community and stakeholders, and to meet new colleagues and get your messages across.

You are invited to submit your profile on-line via the EuropaBio website at

Your profile will also be inserted into the EuropaBio members only database at Please take care to have updated profiles providing accurate information on what you are interested in talking on so that you get invited to the right events.

Europe – EU

WTO: EU Broke International Trade Rules - Sam Cage, Associated Press, February 7, 2006 The WTO has ruled that the EU broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified foods, officials said Tuesday.

The preliminary judgment by a World Trade Organization panel concluded that the European Union had an effective ban on biotech foods for six years from 1998, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a confidential report.

The report sided with a legal complaint brought by the US, Canada and Argentina over an EU moratorium on approval of new biotech foods, the officials said. The panel ruled that individual bans in six EU member states -- Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg -- violated international trade rules.

Many developing countries have refused to let farmers grow GM crops, partly because of concerns that the crops could jeopardise their access to the lucrative European market by contaminating non-GM exports (see Egypt pulls out of US challenge to Europe's GM ban). Asnake Fikre, a plant biotechnologist at Ethiopia's Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center, told SciDev.Net that the WTO decision would encourage pro-GM governments, such as Ethiopia's, to support local development of GM crops.

Over 3,400 scientists, including 25 Nobel Laureates such as Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. James Watson, Dr. Arthur Kornberg, Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, Dr. Peter Doherty, Dr. Paul Berg, Mr. Oscar Arias Sanchez and Dr. John Boyer have signed a declaration of support for agricultural biotechnology sponsored by the AgBioWorld Foundation. The Foundation hopes that WTO panel decision will be an important step towards replacing special interest politics with sound science and responsible regulatory and market practices which will benefit consumers in Europe and throughout the globe.

Directorate- General for Research

Calls for tender
European textbook on ethics in research - OJ: 31/01/2006 Ref. 2006/S 20-021422

Act now to boost research and innovation “before it's too late”!

Experts call for stakeholders to form a Research and Innovation Pact to underscore their commitment to helping Europe meet its revamped Lisbon Agenda. A radical rethink is required to bridge the gap between rhetoric on the knowledge society and concrete steps to make it happen, suggest the authors of a recent report on research, development and innovation in Europe.

The report, called ‘Creating an Innovative Europe', points to a notable gap between political rhetoric on Europe's knowledge society ambitions and the reality on the ground.

Member States stump up for plant genomics

“Plants are essential to human life,” says the team behind the ERA-NET Plant Genomics (ERA-PG) initiative which announced its first joint call for proposals to help structure this field of research in Europe. With a budget in the tens of millions, this is one of the largest joint calls in the ERA-NET scheme with 11 national funding organisations committing to it. Paul Beckers, who is coordinating the call for ERA-PG, told CORDIS News that the €30 million is not a “common pot of funding” for the calls. “Once the projects are selected, the teams then go back to the funding bodies in their own country,” he is quoted as saying. A second call is envisaged which might take a further step towards centralised funding.

SCAR net: New web site on Agricultural research

This web site presents the work of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research: SCAR. SCAR will look beyond the narrow aspects of research relating to production and encompass the so-called ‘fork-to-farm’ concept, emphasising research for sustainable agriculture, and including biodiversity and rural development.

New list of EC contacts for agricultural research

Structuring Plant Genomic Research in Europe - 1st Call for Proposals (2006)

European Food Safety Authority: Call for expressions of interest, deadline on 17 February 2006

Stem cells home page - Research, projects, information at

New Report Considers Co-existence of GM and Non-GM Crops and Seeds
Europa, February  24 2006, Brussels –

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre is publishing case studies to identify how farmers can reduce the "adventitious" - unintended and unavoidable - presence of GM material in non-GM harvests.

The full version of today's report is available at the following website:

New Case Studies on The Coexistence of GM and Non-GM crops in European Agriculture

A. Messean et al. European Commission Joint Research Centre, EUR 22102 EN, January 2006; (via Vivian Moses); Full paper at

The Strategy of Coexistence
Europa, Rtd Info (No. 47, P. 20-22) January 2006 Full document at

European SIGMEA project: To study coexistence in the field. Researchers on the SIGMEA project are drawing in particular on the impressive quantity of experimental data already produced by European gene flow research. The EU is supporting the project to the tune of 2.5 million. Europa, RTD INFO (no. 47, p. 23)  2006-02-25 Full doc at

EFSA opens up to discuss future of GM in Europe

-, By Anthony Fletcher

Europe's food safety authority is holding a high level meeting with scientists this Wednesday to discuss the future development of Genetically Modified (GM) food within the bloc. Scientists from environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been invited to share views on scientific and procedural issues related to the authority's work and advice in this field. Herman Koter, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s acting executive director, will chair the meeting. The summit comes just days after a WTO ruling backed the US, Canada and Argentina in their efforts to open Europe up to genetically modified (GM) food.

The WTO ruled earlier this month that any ban on GM imports contravened the rules of free trade. Both the European biotechnology industry and the European Commission have welcomed the decision. "The industry continues to back a science-based regulatory system to ensure farmers have the choice to use sustainable techniques that best meet the needs of their farming operations," said EuropaBio, the European association for biotech industries, in a statement.

But some anti-GM campaigners remain convinced that Europe does not want GM food. It is clear that Member States still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable the Commission has asked EU members over ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product, but in the large majority of cases, there was no agreement or simple deadlock.

The meeting, which will be held in Parma, Italy, will therefore provide an opportunity for NGOs to express their concerns. Presentations will be given on topics related to the risk assessment of genetically modified food, including environmental aspects. Equally, EFSA will use this opportunity to explain fundamental concepts of hazard characterisation and risk assessment. The objective of the meeting is to consider if there are issues of a scientific or technical nature that the authority may wish to take into account in the further development of its work and operating procedures.

EFSA believes that the meeting illustrates the agencys willingness to dialogue with interested parties on scientific matters in line with EFSA's policy on openness and transparency. The authority says that it is committed to exchange and collaboration with all of its stakeholders, including those who may hold different views.

GM Potato No Threat to Health, says EFSA
Anthony Fletcher, Nutra Ingredients, Feb. 27, 2006

A genetically modified potato product with altered starch composition poses no threat to human health, according to an EFSA panel ruling. BASF Plant Science's GM potato, EH92-527-1, has a higher amylopectin:amylose ratio. Amylopectin starch potatoes are mainly used for the production of starch for industrial purposes, and the potatoes are not intended for direct human consumption.


Dissenting Prince
- The Times Feb. 23, 2006 (via Vivian Moses)

Sir, The Prince of Wales was described in court as "working against the prevailing political consensus" (report, Feb 22). In politics, where opinions vary, there may be merit in being a dissident, although whether a Royal should take on such a role might be debatable.

However, in his statements on GM crops the Prince was working against not a political but the prevailing scientific consensus. For there is no doubt that his oft-expressed views were in conflict with the great majority of independent scientific experts, from whom the Government sought impartial advice. The worlds of science and politics are different and work to different rules. Going against the accepted scientific consensus may sometimes be justified for the maverick genius, but Prince Charles is not in that class. In the case of GM foods the Prince offered shallow arguments fed by ill-informed prejudice. Perhaps he should stick to politics in future.
- Professor Joe N. Perry, Broome, Norfolk

Joint International GM Opposition Day (JIGMOD) - . 8th of April 2006:

100 international organizations from more than 40 countries are now announcing April 8, 2006 as a Joint International GM Opposition Day. The day will feature major public events in several of these countries to demonstrate continuing global opposition to genetically modified foods and crops. "This international day follows the WTO decision to restrain European governments from protecting their farmers and other citizens from the threat of GMOs," explained one of the US promoters of the event. We will join with our allies around the world to condemn the WTO decision, and to denounce the US administration's attempts to impose this hazardous technology on us all."

Europe 'Missing Out' as GM Issue Comes to a Head - Anthony Fletcher, Food, Feb. 7, 2006

Europe is missing out on the biotech revolution in agriculture, said the president of the European Federation of Biotechnology. Prof. Dr. Marc Van Montagus words come just days before an expected WTO ruling on the USs complaint against a European import ban of genetically modified (GM) products. The announcement, expected later today, could provide pro-GM campaigners with significant impetus if it sides with the US viewpoint "Europe is lagging behind its worldwide competitors and European farmers are deprived of access to one of the fastest growing technologies in agriculture," he told a press conference in Brussels. He added that the European Union is far behind its competitors in terms of number of hectares under GM cultivation.

Van Montagu produced the first GM plant in Europe. He is also convinced that technology transfer and plant biotechnology research could revolutionise both agriculture and the food industry. "Fighting the vicious circle of hunger and poverty is the most urgent task that faces our society, and will require a reformulation of current models of agriculture," he said.

Risk Perception: Eurobarometer Survey Report

bulletEuropean Food Safety Authority, Feb 7, 2006
bulletThe Eurobarometer survey on risk perception was jointly commissioned by EFSA and the European Commission Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General (DG-SANCO).

Highlights from the report's conclusions include:

bulletMajor food crises of the past (eg BSE, dioxins..) are not cited by consumers as being top concerns today;
bulletThere is a high level of awareness of EU food safety regulations (>60%);
bulletNearly 6 out of 10 agree that public authorities' decisions re food risks are science-based;
bullet1 in 2 thinks that public authorities do a good job in informing citizens regarding food risks.

For more information on Eurobarometer surveys, see
Scope and summary at

Gene Flow and Buffer Distance in Maize: Coexistence Study from Italy

'Buffer zones of 20 metres between adjoining maize crops limit gene flow to values of lower than 0.9%, Indicated by the EU as the threshold for the coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops.' - Davide Ederle, Technology Transfer & Communication, Lodi - Italy;, Full text in Italian at

Getting Serious About Biofuels
Steven E. Koonin, Editorial, Science, Vol.311. no.5760, p.435, Jan. 27, 2006.
Steven E. Koonin is chief scientist for BP, London, UK. He is a theoretical physicist from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA, where he also served as provost from 1995 to 2004. E-mail:

Credible studies show that with plausible technology developments, biofuels could supply some 30% of global demand in an environmentally responsible manner without affecting food production.

Genetic improvement of energy crops such as switchgrass, poplar, and jatropha has barely begun. It will be important to increase the yield and environmental range of energy crops while reducing agricultural inputs. Plant development, chemical composition, tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses, and nutrient requirements are important traits to be manipulated.

Intertwined with the technology of large-scale biofuels production are the social and policy issues. The balances between natural vegetation and cultivation, arable and marginal land use, mechanized agriculture and employment opportunities, and food and energy crops will be important matters of discussion in many different forums.

It is now time to do that through a coordination of government, university, and industrial R&D efforts, facilitated by responsible public policies. In the jargon of the petroleum industry, the "size of the prize" is too large to ignore.


FAO: Do Not Leave GMOs in the Hands of the Private Sector
- Agence France Presse ,06 février, 200;  'Ne pas laisser les OGM dans les mains du secteur' privé

Rome - The GMOs, developed with care, could have "a considerable potential" for poor countries if the public sector took the trouble to be interested, surmised Shivaji Pandey and Andrea Sonnino, president and secretary of the Working group on biotechnologies of FAO (the UN food and agriculture body).

The Case for Science-Based Agriculture
David Dickson,,  February 8, 2006

Although GM crops are controversial, they can still play an important role in meeting the world's food needs. But the controversies do highlight the need for a robust regulatory framework. There are several reasons why many poorer communities in the developing world feel justified in regarding modern science and technology with suspicion, if not scepticism.

bulletThe fact that the fruits of science often fail to reach the poorest levels of society.
bulletIt is often the poorest communities that suffer most from the side-effects of technology-based growth. Think of farmers falling ill or dying after exposure to chemical pesticides.
bulletPoor urban and rural communities in parts of the developing world are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, itself largely the result of the West's industrialisation.

The opposition to GM crops is not grounded in a scientific assessment of their relative risks and benefits. Rather, it is strengthened by deeper feelings of mistrust and alienation, and the fact that GM technology meets many of the criteria for triggering such a reaction.

bulletIntervening directly with the genetic make-up of plants (and animals) is widely seen as a form of interference not only with natural processes, but also with traditional farming practices.
bulletThe international patent system, which controls access to intellectual property.
bulletPeople's sense of alienation can grow when foreign researchers take genetic resources overseas to make profits by incorporating the active ingredients into new products.

The problem with all of these arguments is that, despite raising legitimate concerns about how the modern technology is controlled, they can demonise the technology itself. And in doing so they also implicate the science on which it is based.

Philippines Banks on "Frankenstein Food" to Feed the Poor
- Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Feb. 14, 2006,

Manila - With one in three Filipinos subsisting on nutrient-deficient but cheap instant noodles, the Philippines is pinning its hopes on "Frankenstein food" to feed its impoverished millions despite environmental and health worries. Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban said the government has been aggressively promoting genetically modified (GMO) crops for widespread cultivation in order to boost food production. Panganiban said the Philippines is among the 12 countries in the world where over 85 per cent of land is already under the most "intense use for agriculture, housing and industry." The agriculture department was encouraged by the response of Filipino farmers in cultivating Bt corn, the first GMO crop introduced in the country five years ago. The number of farmers growing the genetically modified Bt corn has increased tremendously, with the area of production now at 25,000 hectares, out of at least 250,000 hectares devoted to the crop. "From the ordinary hybrid to Bt, there was a quantum leap in terms of adoptation, especially for corn-growing areas in the southern region of Mindanao," he told a recent meeting of regional biotechnology experts in Manila. "Farmers who adopted it at the initial phase have earned more than those who still cling on the old varieties," he added. "There are now over 85 million Filipinos," he said. "By the end of this year two million more will have been born. And because of dwindling farmlands, a vast number of our farmers are counted among the poorest in the Asia-Pacific region." "Biotechnology is the rightful answer to that," Panganiban added.

The Role of Non-GM Biotechnology in Developing World Agriculture
- Zephaniah Dhlamini,, February 2006

Zephaniah Dhlamini is a former consultant to the plant breeding and genetics section of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Read on at

Report Shows Decline in New U.S. Agri-biotech Products
- CropBiotech Update, Feb. 10, 2006

In the report "Withering on the vine: will agricultural biotech's promises bear fruit?" Gregory Jaffe, Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Biotechnology Project, presents the results of a study comparing the number and type of biotech crops approved for commercialization in the U.S. between the years 1995 and 2000, and the subsequent five years. The report concludes that despite a two third decrease in the number of applications filed since the year 2000, the time required for federal agencies to complete their review of biotech crops had doubled. In addition, most of the products filed after 2000 were not novel applications of the technology, but involved the use the same genes already approved for previous applications.

GM crops are compatible with sustainable agriculture

Christine Gould argues that transgenic crops have much to offer farmers who use integrated pest management techniques We at CropLife International, the global federation that represents the plant science industry, feel strongly that GM crops have a place in integrated pest management (IPM) and that genetic modification is a useful and beneficial technology that can make a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture.

Argentinean senate approves biotech law

The Argentinean senate has approved a law intended to stimulate private investment in biotechnology. [Spanish Full Text]

Strong science academies can aid Africa's development

African nations need strong science academies to advise their governments and raise public debate on key development issues, says an editorial in Nature. (Source: Nature)

Zimbabwe Importing GMO Maize from Argentina ??
- Reuters, February 20, 2006

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe is importing unmilled, genetically-modified (GMO) yellow maize from Argentina, despite an official ban on such products, trading sources and other monitors told Reuters on Friday. But a senior Zimbabwean minister said his government remained opposed to unmilled maize and said he was unaware of such shipments.

Political fines boost funds for Mexican science

Mexican science received a US$ 44.5 million funding boost last year from fines imposed on political parties for breaking electoral campaigning rules.

Official: Genetic Modification Technology Safely Applied in China
Xinhuanet,, FEb. 27, 2006

China applies Genetic Modification (GM) technology in a safe way, an official with the State Forestry Administration said here Monday. Zhuo Rongsheng, director of the Wildlife Department with the State Forestry Administration, said at a press conference that China has attached great importance to research on GM technology and conducted studies on genetically modified timber and flowers.

China joins top ten for international patents

China has overtaken Australia, Canada and Italy to become the tenth biggest source of international patents, says the World Intellectual Property Organization.

China top leader in biotechnology
Clive Cookson, Financial Times (UK), February 1, 2006

Plant scientists see China as a global leader for the future. The country has set agricultural biotechnology as a research priority, with spending estimated at around $200m this year and rising fast. But even in China the route to GM crops is not straightforward. The government is far from united in its commitment to GM. Some officials in the agriculture ministry are more interested in building exports of non-GM crops, particularly soya, to markets where there is strong consumer resistance to biotech foods. And the State Environmental Protection Administration co-operates with China's surprisingly vigorous Greenpeace organisation, whichis campaigning against GM crops.

China unveils plans for science-based development

Chinese policies unveiled this week aim to hugely boost investment in research and development, and eradicate poverty in the country by 2050.

Science in China: publish or perish?

A recent spate of suicides among young Chinese researchers is raising questions about the amount of pressure they are under. (Source: Science)

Comparing Nanotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms Misleads Public

Writing in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Ronald Sandler, Ph.D., and William Kay, Ph.D., argue that the GMO-nanotechnology analogy overstates the likelihood of a backlash against nanotechnology. The use of this analogy, they note, also creates misconceptions about the reasons for engaging the public in discussions about nanotechnology and conducting research on the social and ethical issues accompanying the widespread commercial development of nanotechnology. This discussion appears in a paper titled, "The GMO-nanotech (dis)analogy?" An abstract is available at the journal's website at

Risk of food ingredients
USA Today - 01/02/2006 - Elizabeth Weise

New federal rules for packaged foods promise to open consumers' eyes to ingredients that could trigger serious allergies or contribute to heart disease.

The labels, which became mandatory on Jan. 1, already have pushed foodmakers to reduce some of those potentially hazardous ingredients out of fear that consumers will recoil at the new information. That's according to consumer advocates and nutritionists who pushed for the changes.

From now on, the labels will list the amount of heart-unhealthy trans fat and the presence of eight major potential allergens.

GM rice

Vietnam News Agency reports that scientists from the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI) have been able to create a nutritious rice variety through genetic modification. The rice is insect resistant and it also is rich in Vitamins A and E, iron, zinc, and oryzanol. Some evidence suggests that gamma oryzanol increases testosterone levels, stimulates the release of endorphins (pain-relieving substances made in the body), and promotes the growth of lean muscle tissue. This biotech rice will be planted in remote and disadvantaged areas of the country to raise the quality of nutrition in local communities.

US Backs Dow's Plant Cell Vaccine
- Clive Cookson, Financial Times (UK), January 31 2006

The world's first vaccine made in plant cells has received regulatory approval in the US. The pioneering vaccine, developed by Dow Chemical with a consortium of US research institutions, works against Newcastle disease in poultry but the company says the technology could be applied quite quickly to other diseases - with avian flu a prime target.

Gene linked to HIV progression among Chinese

Researchers have found a human gene that could affect how quickly Chinese HIV patients develop AIDS.

Change the mood of GM debate
- Patrick F. Byrne, Crop Science. 46:113-117 (2006). ( Giving the amount of published data, analysis, and opinions on the public acceptance and safety of transgenic crops the author concludes: For society to benefit from GE crops, we must move away from the polarized positions that have defined the transgenic debate in the past, to positions of mutual respect that allow a rational discussion of the technology's merits and risks.

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