News in March 2006
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Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference: Unlocking the Potential of Agricultural Biotechnology - August 6 - 9, 2006, Melbourne, Australia

The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) is the major global conference for agricultural biotechnology.  First held in 1996 in Canada by the ABIC Foundation, Melbourne Australia will host the first conference to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere. ABIC 2006 will bring together leading international researchers in the AgBio sector with industry partners and investors. The theme for ABIC 2006 will be 'unlocking the potential of agricultural biotechnology', and appropriately, the focus will be on both the innovation and the commercialisation, two processes that must go hand in hand. In other words, how do we take smart ideas from the laboratory bench to the market place where it will have maximum benefit for society?

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

5th International Conference on Mycorrhiza (ICOM5)
Location: Granada, Spain Date: 23 - 27 July 2006

Pan Arab Human Genetics Conference
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates Date: 4 - 6 April 2006

Agri-Food Innovation Forum
July 11-12, Toronto, Canada

The second annual Agri-Food Innovation Forum is an elite gathering of researchers, academics and executives involved in bioproduct innovation in Canada and beyond. Held in conjunction with the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, the event will present distinguished experts and their vision, experience and success stories in this globally significant new market.

The Agri-Food Innovation Forum will take place at the Toronto Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, starting with a joint BIO-Forum Welcoming Reception the evening of July 11, followed by a half day Forum on the morning of July 12, with Canadian plenary speakers focusing on the 2006 theme: Celebrating Excellence in Canadian Industrial Bioproducts. At noon on July 12, the Forum wraps up and the BIO World Congress begins.

International Symposium on Nanotechnology in Environmental Protection and Pollution (ISNEPP)
Location: Hong Kong, China Date: 18 - 21 June 2006

1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim heritage in our world
Location: The Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, United Kingdom
Date: 8 March 2006 - 4 June 2007

Books, articles and databases

Health for All? - Agriculture and Nutrition - Bioindustry and Environment
Report from The World Life Sciences Forum (ed.) (Lyon, France)

The definitive report from the 2005 World Life Sciences Forum includes analyses and recommendations by world leaders in science, industry and politics on the three most important areas in global development: human health, agriculture and nutrition, bioindustry and environment.

Volume 2: Agriculture And Nutrition - Introduction by M. Gale, John Innes Centre; R. C. Offenheiser, Oxfam America; F. G. Bastiaens, Cargill

Module I Agriculture: Livelihood, Politics and Sustainability - contributions by P. Pinstrup-Andersen, Danish Science Council; P. Bloomer, Oxfam International; B. Garthoff, Bayer CropScience

Module II Access to Food for All - contributions by I. Potrykus, Swiss Institute of Technology; K. Ammann, Bern Botanical Garden; R. Rangel-Aldao, Empresas Polar

Module III Feeding 9 Billion People by 2050 - contributions by P. Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden; F. Wambugu, Africa Harvest; R. Flavell, Ceres

CropLife International has recently made available an online database of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the benefits and safety of biotech crops. This can be accessed at

Database of the Benefits and Safety of Biotechnology

CropLife International database of published papers and reviews demonstrating the benefits and safety implications associated with the use of agricultural biotechnology products.

The New Global Biosociety: Innovation, Security and Development
Special Issue in International Journal of Biotechnology  (IJBT), Volume:8 - Issue: 1/2, 2006

India Bt Cotton Documentary Now Available
ISAAA and the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP) have released "The Story of Bt Cotton in India". This 20-minute documentary captures the history of India's first commercial approval of a genetically modified crop. For copies, please contact Bhagirath Choudhary of the ISAAA South Asia office at b.choudhary(at) or Purvi Mehta-Bhatt of SABP at P_Mehta_Bhatt(at)

Development Perspectives on Biotechnology, Trade and Sustainability - Edited by Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz and Vicente Sanchez, ?22.95 ISBN 184407028X; October 2005 224 pages

* A unique collection of leading-edge development perspectives on biotechnology, biosafety, sustainable development and trade * Bridges the gaps between stakeholders in the South and the North, and between regulatory activities and academic research

Gene Crops Merit Cost-Benefit Analysis – Report Reuters, March 17, 2006

London - Regulators should assess possible environmental benefits of genetically modified crops (GMO) as well as their potential to cause damage, scientists who advise the government say. "The current regulatory system is flawed because it doesn't weigh (the) damage against the potential benefits for the environment," the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) said.

In a report released on Friday, the committee recommended tests of all agricultural innovations and cited recent four-year-long field trials of GMO crops in the UK as a suitable basis for the development of new, more balanced tests. In a statement published in conjunction with the report British Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "The GM trials gave a real insight into how weed control regimes, in both conventional and GM crops, can affect biodiversity." "This raises a general question about the environmental impact of changes in arable farming."

Economic Impact of Transgenic Crops in Developing Countries Terri Raney, (FAO Rome, Italy); Current Opinion in Biotechnology, March 7, 2006 Download full paper at

Transgenic crops are being adopted rapidly at the global level, but only a few developing countries are growing them in significant quantities.

Why are these crops so successful in some countries but not in others? Farm level profitability ultimately determines whether farmers adopt and retain a new technology, but this depends on much more than technical performance. Recent economic studies in developing countries find positive, but highly variable, economic returns to adopting transgenic crops.

These studies confirm that institutional factors such as national agricultural research capacity, environmental and food safety regulations, intellectual property rights and agricultural input markets matter at least as much as the technology itself in determining the level and distribution of economic benefits.

Hungry Corporations: Transnational Biotech Companies Colonise the Food Chain
Helena Paul, Devlin Kuyek, Lucy Michaels, Ricarda Steinbrecher; price $27.50; 256 pages; Zed Books, 2004; ISBN: 1842773011

This book is about the growing dominance of transnational corporations over many aspects of our lives, from executive super-pay to private sector pension funds. The authors of this book look at the hi-tech agro-chemical and genetic engineering companies that now dominate the food chain. In this detailed account, they show how a handful of companies have accelerated the industrialization of agriculture; penetrated the previously independent world of scholarly research; manipulated public opinion, and more.

Who's Who in Biotech
- Nature Biotechnology, Published online March 6, 2006.

Who's Who in Agricultural, Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology
- Kendall Powell, Nature Biotechnology, March 2006.

'The coinventors of Golden Rice and founders of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Projects have been nominated for their contributions to agricultural, environmental or industrial biotech research and development.

Ingo Potrykus, Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, Basel and Peter Beyer, University of Freiburg, Germany. Coinventors of Golden Rice and founders of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Project.

An Analysis of Trade Related International Regulations of GM Food and their Effects on Developing Countries
- Guillaume P. Gruere, Intl Food Policy Res Inst, Feb. 2006 Download Full Discussion Paper at

Experts: Expanding Biotechnology Research in Developing Countries Key to Countering Bioterrorism - University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics; February 26, 2006;

Experts at the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health warn that global efforts to combat bioterrorism are on a potential collision course with legitimate biotechnology pursuits that hold the promise of improving life for millions of the world's poorest people.

In a report released Feb. 27, DNA for Peace: Reconciling Biodevelopment and Biosecurity, the CPGGH, part of the University of Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB), calls for a global network of scientists to both promote biotechnology research to fight disease, hunger and poverty, especially in the developing w orld, and to keep vigil against the misuse of biological science.

The report, online at, calls on world leaders at the G8 meeting in July 2006 to establish a global network to help resolve potential conflicts between bioterrorism control and biotechnology development.

Do Humans Need GMOs? -- A View from a Global Trade Market
- Chi-Chung Chen and Wei-Chun Tseng (National Chung-Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan) Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, Vol. 8 (1), 147 (Via Vivian Moses)
Full document (sans tables and figures) posted at

In this study, a spatial equilibrium (SE) model is applied to create a world trade model. The products simulated in this study are corn and soybeans since they are the major food grains and also the most widely adopted GMO products in the world. The empirical results reveal evidence of the adoption of GMO production technology increase the quantity traded and lessen the upward pressure on food prices, although it is the major trading countries that obtain most of the benefit. In response to the question: "Do humans need GMOs?", the results of our simulation indicate that they do.

There are some limitations to this research.  The first is to assume that all exporting countries fully adopt (i.e. adopt 100%) the GMO production technology, while the importing countries do not adopt such technology. If the importing countries were also to adopt the GMO production technology, the scale of the impact would be larger than that suggested by the above simulation results. The second restriction relates to the percentage change in the crop yield or the crop production cost when the GMO production technology is adopted. A 3.2% increase in the corn yield and a $3.2 per hectare reduction in the production cost of soybeans may underestimate what would happen in the future if the GMO production technology were to be promoted. Therefore, the above simulation results are underestimated.

Are Genetically Modified (GM) Crops a Commercial Risk for Africa?
Robert Paarlberg, International J Technology and Globalisation (IJTG), Vol. 2, No. 1/2, 2006.

Full text at

Africa's food crisis calls out for answers. In June 2004, at an international food conference in Ethiopia just prior to an African Union summit meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan observed that roughly one third of all adults in sub-Saharan Africa are currently malnourished. This hunger crisis is nearly certain to grow worse: crop yields in Africa tend to be much lower per hectare than in Asia or Latin America, and in 31 out of 53 African countries food output has actually been declining, while population is expected to double by 2030 to reach 1.5 billion.

Europe – EU

BioSapiens like you
The EU-funded BioSapiens network is hosting its third annual general meeting this week to discuss progress in setting up its virtual institute for genome annotation and the European school for training in bioinformatics which has already visited Italy, Holland and Spain since the project started in 2004.

Commission study addresses Europe’s scientific publication system
The European Commission is today publishing a study which examines the scientific publication system in Europe. Scientific publication ensures that research results are made known, which is a pre-condition for further research and for turning this knowledge into innovative products and services. Scientific publication is also an important part of certifying the quality of the work done.

Research site keyword index
The Research site keyword index now contains nearly 7000 English keywords to help you find what you are looking for. It also contains over 2200 keywords in German, French Spanish, directing you to articles in those languages.

Several new projects added for "Life sciences, genomics and biotechnologies for health" and "Food quality and safety"

EU’s support for biodiversity continues in next Framework Programme
Understanding biodiversity is among the most challenging intellectual and scientific puzzles facing mankind today. Nearly every economic sector around the planet has an impact on biodiversity or its conservation ...

Public consultation on the Vision Report of the Biofuels Research Advisory Council (BIOFRAC)
"Biofuels in the European Union - A Vision for 2030 and Beyond"

EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research
Transatlantic Biotechnology Exchange Fellowship Opportunity (Call for proposals):

The US-EU Task Force on Biotechnology Research announces support for short-term exchanges of US scientists with interest in collaborating with EU laboratories.

Research, food: Food safety fears dropping on Europeans’ “worry list”
Efforts by the European Union to improve food safety and security appear to be winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of European citizens, according to a recent special Eurobarometer survey on risk issues related to
Food safety: What do Europeans think now? For most people, eating is an everyday activity which should not really pose any threat. But past experience in Europe has shown this cannot be taken for granted. Efforts by the European Union to improve food safety and quality are paying off, suggests a recent European opinion survey of ‘Risk Issues' related to food. The majority of citizens believe the EU is doing a good job in the area of food safety, but many still want to see changes. food.

Exploring the value of sustainable agriculture
Conventional agricultural practices still dominates European farming. However, worries persist about its long-term impact on the environment. Unsustainable use of natural resources, problems caused by soil erosion, water pollutions and use of pesticides are among the issues that are of particular concern. Now an EU-funded project is drawing together knowledge into ‘alternative' agriculture in a bid to help policy-makers understand and promote more sustainable farming systems.

EU Approves New Type of Genetically Modified Maize
- Reuters, March 6, 2006

BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Friday authorised the marketing of a new type of genetically modified (GMO) maize, known as pioneer line 1507, despite a deadlock among EU member states.

"The authorisation means that this maize type will now be allowed to be marketed in the EU as food, food ingredients or derived products, such as oil and starch," Commission spokesman for health and consumer protection Philip Tod told a briefing. "In line with EU labelling and traceability rules, any product containing it will have to clearly indicate its genetically modified nature," he said.


The Third meeting of the 132 Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP3) was concluded on 17 March in Curitiba, Brazil. It adopted a landmark decision on detailed documentation requirements for genetically modified organisms in the international trade of agricultural commodities. In addition to the documentation requirements, MOP3 took decisions on a range of other issues that will enhance the effective implementation of the Protocol, including: biosafety capacity-building activities in developing countries,  risk assessment for GMOs,  and the operation of the web-based information exchange portal established by the Protocol, the so called Biosafety Clearing House. Summary of the Curitiba meeting at

Biosafety Protocol Implementation Costs
International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council, March 2006

The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) has published two technology issue briefs on China and Brazil, examining the costs of implementing different documentation requirements envisaged under the Biosafety Protocol (BSP) for shipments of living modified organisms intended for direct use as food or feed or processing (LMOs-FFP).

For soybean imports alone, costs under the strictest documentation requirement would amount to US$ 13.98 million in 2005. The brief also shows through economic modeling that the BSP acts exactly like a tariff, keeping trade Sdown and forcing prices up for importing countries and reducing domestic price in exporting nations.
The paper lays out these costs, which for some regions in Brazil could be close to 9% of a shipment's product value.

The studies can be downloaded on the IPC website:

Agricultural biotechnology is necessary for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity.
CURITIBA, Brazil March 15, 2006-

As officials from 132 nations meet in Brazil this week for a UN meeting under the Biosafety Protocol, the plant science industry reminds governments of the vital role biotech innovations play in achieving sustainable agriculture and development:

bulletBiotech crops are essential to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity - the overall objective of the Biosafety Protocol. They enable more efficient use of water in agriculture, reduce soil erosion, prevent loss of biodiversity, and increase air quality. By making farming more efficient on limited land area, they are critical for preventing habitat destruction - the biggest single threat to biodiversity.
bulletBiotechnology is an established technology, having been used in research for more than 30 years, and with biotech crops commercially available for more than 10 years. In this time, there has been no proven harm to humans or the environment.
bulletThese crops are delivering major benefits to farmers and society, through increased yields, higher incomes, simplified crop management, and, in some cases, reductions in the use of pesticides.
bulletGlobal planted area of biotech crops has soared by more than fifty-fold from 1.7 million hectares in six countries in 1996 to 90 million hectares in 21 countries in 2005. Last year, some 8.5 million farmers planted biotech crops - mostly in developing countries. This is because small scale farmers tend to benefit most from biotech crops, as insect and disease protected crops provide new and previously unavailable tools to combat pest problems.
bulletA study by PG Economics released last October showed that farmers using biotechnology increased their incomes by US$27 billion during the period 1996 to 2004with significant environmental benefits delivered. Importantly, the accumulative economic benefits during the nine years to developing countries ($15 billion), exceeded benefits to industrial countries ($12 billion).

Islamic Countries Set Implementation Strategy for Biotech
Crop Biotech Update,

Expert members have agreed on an implementation strategy for the development of biotechnology in Islamic countries. They presented the following recommendations during the workshop "Development of Biotechnology in Islamic Countries: Sharing Experience on Issues and Challenges":

bulletMobilize political authorities to support biotechnology through legislation and to ensure financial support for
bulletEstablish training and education centers in Islamic countries with special emphasis on modern biotechnology tools, information technology, and entrepreneurship. * Establish key research priorities at regional and national levels.
bulletIncrease public awareness and understanding on biotechnology and its applications These recommendations will be presented at the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Ministerial Meeting in August 2006 in Kuwait.

The Expert Meeting was held in Cairo, Egypt, on 6-8 March 2006, and was organized by ISESCO, the Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee for Science and Technology (COMSTECH), and Inter-Islamic Network on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (INOGEB). The meeting was chaired by Prof. Abdul Latif Ibrahim, Director of the Biotech-IT Center Selangor, Malaysia. For further information contact Prof. Faiq Billal, Director for Sciences, ISESCO at: sciences(at)

The workshop "The Development of Biotechnology in Islamic Countries: Sharing Experiences on Issues and Challenges" was held in Cairo, Egypt, on the 6th-8th of March. The event aimed to provide a forum for identifying common challenges and prospects for the application of biotechnology in Islamic countries, and promoting scientific collaboration among them. The workshop was attended by delegates from member states of the Organization of the Islamic Countries (OIC), including Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, Syria, Sudan, Togo, and Tunisia. Biotechnology, in particular with regard to agriculture and health, was identified by the meeting's participants as an essential player in national development. In addition, public science awareness and acceptance were highlighted as key factors in promoting biotechnology. Key challenges for the development of biotechnology in Islamic countries include: public funding for research and development, absence of a legal framework in areas such as biosafety and intellectual property, and inadequate support infrastructure. Opportunities to strengthen collaboration and sharing of scientific information and capacity building were likewise identified.

During the workshop, Islamic scholars stated that Islam is not in contradiction to the development of science and technology, if it is intended for the betterment of mankind and does not harm the environment. However, efforts are needed to bridge the communication gap between religious scholars and scientists for the formulation of fatwas (Islamic laws) regarding biotechnology and its applications.

Network to support African biotech research, policy
An online network will launch this month to promote dialogue on agricultural biotechnology in Africa.

Cutting methane emissions 'will save 370,000 lives'
Research suggests that human health could benefit directly from efforts to limit climate change by cutting emissions of methane.

Global guidelines proposed for stem cell studies
Specialists from 14 nations have proposed new international guidelines to help researchers, funding agencies and journals regulate stem cell research.

From professor to mayor: science for China's poor
Jia Hepeng reports on a Chinese scheme that has sent 2,000 scientists to spend two-year terms in regional governments so they can apply their knowledge to alleviating poverty there.

Monsanto Sells Modified Alfalfa, Expands Biotech Crops To Five
Jack Kaskey, Bloomberg News, March 8, 2006

Monsanto Co., the world's largest developer of genetically modified seeds, started selling alfalfa seed modified to resist the company's Roundu p weed killer, expanding biotech crop offerings to five. Japan last month agreed to import Roundup Ready alfalfa following approvals by Mexico and Canada, spokeswoman Mica DeLong said today. That prompted St. Louis-based Monsanto to promote the product at a trade show last week after initial sales for 50,000 acres last fall, she said. The U.S. gave regulatory approval in June. Roundup Ready alfalfa was developed with Forage Genetics International, based in Nampa, Indiana. About 23 million acres of alfalfa were harvested in the U.S. last year, DeLong said.

Indian science budget up by 16 per cent
India has announced a 16 per cent rise in its annual science and technology budget, and major research grants for three universities.

Major funding for GM crop research in Vietnam
Vietnam will spend US$63 million over the coming 15 years developing agricultural biotechnology, including genetically modified crops.

Revealed: how rice's worst enemy invades its cells
Researchers have discovered how a fungus invades rice plants, causing the crop's most destructive and costly disease.

Improve water efficiency in farming, urges report
International water researchers say that the farming of the future will need to use water much more efficiently.

Less logging on private land 'key to saving Amazon'
Scientists predict that Brazil will lose more than 40 per cent of its Amazon rainforest by 2050 unless it takes measures to prevent deforestation.

Slow progress at talks on access to biodiversity
Delegates to the UN biodiversity convention are failing to resolve a debate over access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge.

'Landmark' decision reached on trade in GM products
New rules have been set for the international trade of products that contain GM organisms.

Chinese Academy of Sciences gets first constitution
The Chinese Academy of Sciences has released its first constitution, as well as a 15-year plan outlining research priorities.

China announces 58-point plan to boost science
China's cabinet has announced a set of 58 policies intended to boost its scientific and technological development over the next 15 years.

Brazil's biofuel plan is unsustainable

The Brazilian government is promoting the use of biodiesel produced from soya beans to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. But, says Giulio Volpi in this article, clearing large areas of Amazonian rainforest to grow soybeans is too high an environmental price for this policy to be sustainable.

He says the deforestation caused by soybean farming in Brazil means the biodiesel has "virtually no advantage" over fossil fuels, in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by each form of fuel. Deforestation is responsible for 80 per cent of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions. Volpi's article responds to another, by Brazil's president Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva, promoting the country's efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Volpi argues policymakers should only promote biofuels whose overall environmental effect is positive.To achieve this, he calls for a certification scheme to assess each biofuel according to environmental and social criteria.

Link to full article in The Guardian

Growing problem: GM soybeans in Latin America

Proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops say they could help raise incomes and living standards for millions of poor farmers in developing countries.

But in this article in Seedling, two professors of agricultural ecology say that GM soybeans — the world's most widely planted GM crop — have had the opposite effect in parts of Latin America.

GM soybeans need more fertiliser because glyphosate — the herbicide the beans have been modified to resist — kills not only weeds but also the bacteria the beans use to get extra nitrogen, say Miguel Altieri and Walter Pengue.

They add that glyphosate use has also risen since GM soybeans were introduced, and eight weed species in Argentina are now showing resistance to the herbicide.

Altieri of the University of California in Berkeley, United States, and Pengue of the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, also say that the introduction of GM soybeans has increased the concentration of land and wealth into the hands of a minority.

Since GM soybeans were introduced, more land has been allocated to growing them. Because the crop is mostly grown for export, not local consumption, it has reduced food security for the region's poor and displaced other forms of farming, they say.

Plants May Have Potential to Vaccinate Against HIV

UK scientists have developed a new kind of molecule that they believe could allow for cheaper biopharmaceuticals and ultimately lead to the development of a vaccine against HIV using genetically modified tobacco. Writing in Plant Biotechnology Journal, Dr Patricia Obregon and colleagues from St George's, University of London and researchers at the University of Warwick say they have overcome a major barrier that has so far frustrated attempts to turn plants into economically viable 'bioreactors' for vaccines.

GM mosquitoes stop dengue virus replicating
Researchers have genetically modified mosquitoes to resist infection by the virus that causes dengue fever.

GM Technology to Fight Arsenic Poisoning of Water
Swissinfo, March 22, 2006. Full story at

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology have developed a biosensor that highlights levels of arsenic in water. Biosensors detect a substance by combining a biological component with a physico-chemical detector component.

Reminder to content type on to