News in June 2006
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Caution urged over science errors

Mistakes in science research have distorted the public perception of such scientific issues as the MMR vaccine and GM crops, senior UK scientists say.

The Royal Society called for scientists to consider the public interest when deciding whether to talk about their research results.

The society said errors were not confined to misreporting by the media.

It said experts should consider public interest, not just whether the research would be interesting to the public.
Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, from the society, said scientists sometimes did not consider the impact of their words.

"We are very concerned that scientists should learn to produce good lay summaries of what they're doing.
"We're also concerned about people sometimes producing work which is damaging," he told BBC Five Live.
The fuss over GM crops in Britain began after a professor at a respected institute said his experiments showed that biotech potatoes had stunted the growth of lab rats.

It was exacerbated when the British Medical Association said that it too was concerned, but this was retracted after it discovered that famine-struck nations were turning away much needed food donations from the US because of its advice.

However, the Royal Society's call for more care has raised the concern that it might lead to a form of self-censorship and ultimately stifle scientific debate, BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh said.





(THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF SCIENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING BY POLITICIANS....."The references in the piece below to Pusztai's research and the BMA are complete nonsense. But that's not surprising given that the source of this BBC piece is the UK's Royal Society (RS) and the conduit appears to be the BBC's science correspondent, Pallab Ghosh - the RS & co's patsy of choice when wanting to dump horsesh*t in the media.


“Genetically modified organisms and nature conservation” at the World Congress of the Society for Sciences and Arts České Budějovice June 26 to July 1st) Participants of the panel agreed to release the following statement:

  1. Environmental impact of the genetically modified (GM) crops has been examined in more detail than any other agricultural innovation. No serious damaging effects have been detected and the rapid world-wide growth (15-20% annually) of GM crop cultivation testifies to their advantages. Properly used GM crops do not pollute environment and are compatible with the management of landscapes combining intensive agriculture with the organic farming and with the nature conservation areas. The refusal of GM crops by a part of European population is scientifically unjustified. Strangely, denial of GM crops is often combined with a lack of support for nature conservation.
  2. The growth of world population and the increasing living standards are associated with intensive utilisation of natural resources. The consequences are mitigated by environment protection efforts with special status assigned to the National Parks where ecosystems should develop undisturbed by direct human activities. To achieve this, no interference with natural processes, including large-scale disturbances of current ecosystems, must be warranted. However, inadequate awareness of the depth of current ecological problems and the short-term economic interests provoke resistance to the very concept of nature conservation.
  3. The rapid growth of scientific knowledge has outpaced efforts to educate the general public. Explaining the benefits and risks of GM crops as well as the needs of nature conservation in understandable terms has become an exigent task.

The UNIDO 2006 Training Programme on Technology Foresight, composed by 4 modules of courses, will take place as follows:

bulletModule 1: Technology Foresight for Organizers, to be held in Gebze (Turkey) 18-22
September 2006;
bulletModule 2: Technology Foresight for Practitioners: A Specialized Course on Scenarios
Building, to be held in Prague (Czech Republic) 9-12 October 2006;
bulletModule 3: Information Day on Technology Foresight for Decision-Makers, to be held
in Budapest (Hungary) in the second week of November 2006; and
bulletModule 4: Technology Foresight for Corporate Managers, to be held in Bratislava
(Slovakia) 20-23 November 2006.

application form:

GMOs in Integrated Plant Production’Ecological Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms (EIGMO)

23-25 May 2007, Warsaw, Poland, 3rd EIGMO Meeting
IOBC/wprs Working Group ‘

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing 2006
July 11 - 14 , 2006 -Toronto, Canada

“Innovations in Bioscience for Animal and Human Health” will take place on
June 7, 2006 in Brussels, Belgium.

Regional Conference on IPR “Pathways to Agricultural and Rural Development: Intellectual Property Rights and Implications” The Conference Proceedings will be available at the SEARCA website (

are organising the>

BioStar 2006, the second international congress on regenerative biology and ICBN 2006, the second International Congress on Bio-Nano-Interface
from October 9 - 11, 2006, in Stuttgart, Germany are the joint congresses organised by The Society for the Promotion of Biotechnology (Stuttgart, Tuebingen and Neckaralb) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (Stuttgart).

The Eight Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity evaluated last March the use of Genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). GURT is a broad term referring to many forms of gene switching technology, all of which assure that a transgene is expressed only in specified conditions, such as high salinity and drought stress. This strategy can allow a plant to save energy, which it can spend on growth and seed production.

Parties recommended, among others, that scientists “Continue to undertake further research...on the impacts of [GURTs], including their ecological, social, economic, and cultural impacts, particularly on indigenous and local communities.” Thus, no moratorium on research on GURTs has been called, despite claims to the contrary. To read more about GURTS technology, download the ISAAA-KC Pocket K at For more information, visit

International Symposium on Molecular Farming in Plants: Prospects for the Asia Pacific” to be held June 13-15, 2006 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Organized by University Malaya, Center for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR), Malaysian Society for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (MSMBB) in collaboration with MABIC and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). The symposium seeks to promote the exchange of information on molecular farming which encompasses the production of pharmaceuticals and technical proteins in plants. For more information on this symposium and to register as participants, please visit

“Salt and Water Stress In Plants” will be held at Magdalen College, Oxford, United Kingdom, on the 3rd-8th of September, 2006. The conference will focus on the most recent innovative research in cellular and molecular events that determine the response of plants to salinity and water deficit, with particular emphasis on stress metabolism and integration of stress response pathways. For more information, visit

EuropaBio is pleased to support and promote the 3rd Edition of the BIOFORUM event in Italy, to be held in Milan on 19 & 20 September 2006. For more detailed information on this event, please find below a letter from the organizers and click on

Books and publications

A directory of biotech-related sites is now available on the ISAAA-KC--website.

The Knowledge Center has released the latest versions of several of its Pocket K’s. These include Pocket K’s 10 (Herbicide Tolerance Technology: Glyphosate and Gluphosinate), 17 (Genetic Engineering and GM Crops), and 19 (Molecular Breeding and Marker Assisted Selection), and are available for free download online. Visit Twenty other topics are available at

Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited (AFAA) has a new website. It features, among others, an agricultural biotech resources library of external documents on topics under 20 areas of interest, and a section on gene technology policies of farm associations, and related groups. AFAA is an industry initiative, established to increase public awareness of, and encourage informed debate about gene technology. See their new website at

An application of life-cycle assessment for environmental planning and management
The potential environmental and human health impacts of growing genetically-modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet - Bennett, R., Phipps, R., Strange, A.

Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) was used to assess the potential environmental and human health impacts of growing genetically-modified (GM), herbicide-tolerant sugar beet in the UK and Germany compared with conventional sugar beet varieties. The GM variety results in lower potential environmental impacts on global warming, airborne nutrification, ecotoxicity (of soil and water) and watercourse enrichment, and lower potential human health mpacts in terms of production of toxic particulates, summer smog, carcinogens and ozone depletion.


Final outputs of Biosafety Virtual Library project will be disseminated via the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Projects newsletter and website

Strategy for Science,Technology and Innovation 2006 - 2013 Policy document Issue date: 18/06/2006 - Original language of the document: English - Produced by: FORFAS

Europe – EU


"The substance of the ruling has not changed," said one diplomat with knowledge of the finding. The WTO issued a preliminary verdict in February. REUTERS -

The European halt on the import of genetically modified products violated international rules, the world trade body WTO has ruled.

In a report leaked to the press on Thursday (11 May), the WTO argued that the EU was wrong in preventing the use of new modified varieties of corn, soybeans and cotton between 1998 and 2004 on its market without it being scientifically justified.

The Geneva-based organisation also criticised the six EU countries with bans on biotech products already approved by the European Commission.

But questions remain on what impact the ruling will actually have on the EU. "Europe will continue to set its own rules on the import and sale of GMO foods,"

"It's still possible to impose tough restrictions on GMOs TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS. said Peter Power, a commission spokesman.

"We will stick by our policy of being very reluctant [towards GMOs]," said Daniel Kapp, spokesman of the Austrian ministry of science. He claimed that the WTO ruling would have no effect on Austria's biotech policy. Vienna has BASED THE BAN ON THE FACT THAT NO LONG TERM HEALTH SAFETY TESTS HAVE BEEN DONE and that imports would likely lead to the accidental spillage of the seed into the environment.

Voice from India:
WTO Plays God Over Transgenics

Financial Express (India) - 05/15/2006 - Ashok B Sharma

The WTO dispute settlement body's (DSB) final verdict on Europe's de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and food comes at a time when India is busy finalising its labeling norms on GMOs. The nature of the verdict suggests that it has more of political implications, rather than scientific, on countries enforcing norms and regulations on GMOs.

Genetic engineering: GMO traceability method is hurting business, say trading partners

The EU's rules for labelling and tracing the origins of genetically-modified organisms in food, animal feed and other products on the market are under examination, with a report assessing existing measures adopted by the European Commission on 10 May.

Prior to its submission to the full team of Commissioners, the EU executive questioned stakeholders, including food and industry associations, NGOs, government departments and trading partners, on the impact of the system so far. A more general accusation was that requirements are over-burdensome and unnecessarily hamper trade in GM products - a point made by third-country food and retail industry associations, and a non-EU government department. The latter attributed it to a lack of implementation by certain member states. Conversely, the NGOs questioned would like to see rules extended rather than slackened, claiming that a "loophole" will exist while products, such as meat, wool and eggs, derived from animals fed GM material remain outside their scope. Such ideas have, however, been previously rejected by both the European Parliament and Council. The report will now be passed to the Council and Parliament, with another focused on EU rules for marketing GMOs, and labelling for final consumers soon to be sent to the Comissioners for their perusal.

Farm ministers last week sent a clear message to the European Commission to come up with labeling thresholds for the adventitious presence of transgenic material in seed lots. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has been resisting moves to set thresholds despite pressure from seed producers, the biotech industry and even fellow commissioners. The ministers were nearly unanimous in urging the commission to set limits, with only Greece abstaining. Dimas served as a minister in the Greek government before taking up his post in Brussels in 2004.

EU Commissioner Dimas now says GM crops have benefits
DG ENVI has published a new brochure "EU policy on biotechnology".

It provides an objective overview on the current status, and has a foreword by Stavros Dimas (who said the opposite in Vienna last month) but now says:

"Biotechnology has the potential, through agronomically improved crops, to deliver better quality food and environmental benefits. Indeed, life sciences and biotechnology offer opportunities to address many of the global needs relating to health, ageing, food, and the environment and sustainable development." EUROPEAN COMMISSION -

The Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO Panel) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently released its opinion on genetically modified maize 1507 x NK603, which is engineered with protection against specific lepidopteran pests, as well as tolerance to the herbicides glufosinate and glyphosate. The Panel concluded that the maize is “unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health and the environment in the context of its intended uses.” Read the text of the opinion at
Read the press release at

EU authorizes Polish ban on biotech corn seeds

European Union officials on Monday authorized a Polish ban on the use of around 700 types of maize seed, including 16 genetically modified varieties, which had been cleared for sale throughout the EU. The European Commission said the Polish ban was justified because the corn varieties had a long growing cycle that would prevent the crop ripening in the Polish climate. The 25 EU nations unanimously voted to back the Polish ban in March. Biotech products remain controversial across Europe, where many see them as potential health and environmental risks. In February, police removed about 30 environmental activists from the entrance of the Polish prime minister's office after some of them chained themselves to railings to call for a ban on imports of genetically modified organisms. Poland has said it would try to prevent the cultivation of all GM crops in the country, a move also being considered by Luxembourg, Greece and Austria. AP via STORAGE@IT BUSINESS – http://storage.itbusinessnetcom/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=42272



Slovakia at the edge of a transgenic downfall

From now on, in previously GM-free Slovakia, it should be possible to plant transgenic corn. The leading producer of transgenic seeds, Monsanto, wants to take advantage of this new situation as soon as possible.

Due to the fear of attack by environmentalists, cultivation will take place at secret locations, two in Eastern and one in Western Slovakia. According to the Ministry of Agriculture everything will be conducted under the "strictest control".

"Small but clean", - has been the unofficial motto of Slovakia in the area of food production. So long as international conglomerates have not been taking the country seriously as a place of investment, it was possible to resist all external influence. In order to prevent furor they insisted upon even more stringent regulations than their neighbour Austria. The principle sounded simple: everything that was not explicitly allowed was prohibited.

Symbolic breach of the ban

The politicians have lived long enough in the illusion that Slovakia would never ever be affected by mad-cow disease (BSE) because of the ban on the import of doubtful animal feed and of live animals. In the meantime it was discovered that it was not enough, because in seemingly harmless powdered milk imports from the EU, BSE pathogens were hidden, and they have resulted in about 20 cases in Slovakia.

With transgenic food, Slovakia has turned down a complete ban right from the beginning - not least due to massive pressure from the Monsanto-lobby - but instead wants to keep everything under stringent control. Purists consider the fact that the seeds have been allowed, even though not all open questions have been answered as yet, as the first downfall.

As a concession to the tradition of purity, permission for Monsanto has been formulated as stringently as possible: The "experimental" planting has been limited to 20 hectares and to one single corn-variety, and an extension of the permit is not guaranteed.

Monsanto is happy with this: at stake is the first, if only symbolic, breach of the total ban. Monsanto had already planned first such experiments in 2005 but did not receive permission -among other things, because at that time a law did not exist to protect native crops in their natural environment. According to Monsanto, Slovakia was able to be more generous in defining regulations since, unlike Hungary, Slovakia is not a traditional corn-growing area, thus there is no risk of inadvertent out-crossing with other plants.

Critics are waiting

In view of the low-scale extent of this experiment even Greenpeace remains calm: this is "not a commercial but a purely scientific experiment which examines the effects on other plants", said the Greepeace speaker Juraj Rizman to the press. Hence, Greenpeace is waiting for now - because environmentalists are secretly hoping that the result of the experiments could even provide evidence of the risks of planting transgenic, genetically modified, crops. DIE PRESSE

How an organic future can work

The organic farming lobby appears to have taken a new tack in promoting this sector. Having argued for years that organic food was healthier and better for the environment, it is now boasting of its ability to create more jobs, revitalise rural economies and get younger and happier people into agriculture.

In a sizeable new report, Organic Works, to be published today, the Soil Association, the umbrella organisation for the organic movement, argues that this is particularly true in Scotland, with a recent comprehensive study showing that the employment gain of 64 per cent on organic farms as opposed to conventional farms in Scotland was twice the national average.



Difficulties in the French GM establishment, their supporters are confident

Supporters and opponents of genetically modified (GM) technology have found new grounds of confrontation on the Internet, as the government launched an online consultation forum intended for a wide public audience about new outdoor field tests scheduled this year. Seventeen new applications, mainly for the experimental transgenic cultivation of corn, have been submitted by seeds firms, amongst which are Monsanto and Pioneer. A source close to the ministry regrets that the consultation forum, launched at the Ministry of Agriculture website from the 14th to the 28th of April, had to be prolonged until the 5th of May, due to a demonstration by anti-GM protesters. A large number of people mobilised themselves and sent anti-GM petitions to the website. The consultation forum had to be prolonged to make it available to a larger audience...


Biofuel discussion

Wildlife alert over biofuel production

The first warning shots have been fired in what threatens to become a major battle over biofuel production.  Environmentalists are warning of 'widespread' damage to wildlife if the burgeoning domestic biofuel market is allowed to grow unchecked. Biofuel processing plants are springing up across the country, including one in Somerset, providing a massive incentive for growers to switch production away from food crops. And the campaign has been given welcome new impetus by Tesco's announcement that it is to sell biofuel blends through its filling stations.


UK government's biofuels action plan launched
An action plan to unlock the potential for renewable energy in biomass is published by the Government today

A rapeseed crush plant at its existing site in Montoir,France will be constructed by Cargill, an international corporation involved in food, agricultural, and risk management products and services. The company will invest over 50 million euros in the construction that is expected to begin by the end of this year. The plant is expected to churn out up to 250,000 metric tons per year of rapeseed oil, the main ingredient in the production of biodiesel. A co-product of the crushing operations is rapeseed meal; 350,000 metric tons is expected to be produced annually, and will be sold to the animal feed market. Read the complete press release at

Ethanol: Myths and Realities

With high gas prices making alternative fuels increasingly attractive, no alternative fuel has received as much attention as ethanol. Some hail the fuel, which can be derived from plants including corn, wheat, barley and sugarcane, as a savior of American energy policy, while others see it as a fad popularized by its heavily subsidized corporate backers.The reality is complex. Though still a tiny industry compared to gas, ethanol could become a more prominent part of the U.S. and world fuel supply in coming years. Still, as ethanol's public profile rises, there's plenty of misinformation swirling around and a host of questions. What exactly is ethanol? How is it made and used? And is it really a viable alternative to gas? Here's what you need to know now...

A proposal to unite the forces of countries in biofuel production was made in the recently concluded First Inter-American Meeting on Bio-fuels. The meeting was held in Brazil, the world’s current leader in biofuel production, and was attended by specialists from 34 countries of the Americas, as well as representatives of the private and academic sectors. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) of Brazil. Read the press release at

Dont forget biodiesel, US advocates tell Congress

U.S. biodiesel advocates urged Congress on Wednesday to renew tax credits for farmers in the fledgling industry and warned of fuel disruptions this summer, when oil companies implement new clean diesel rules.

There is clearly more focus on ethanol right now. lt has become the most profitable agriculture endeavor in my district -- and that has not gone unnoticed on Wall Street,' Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Democratic leader on the House Agriculture Committee, told reporters. "Biodiesel has as much, or greater, potential. The sulfur phase-out (in diesel fuel) that's coming will create quite a demand ... (and) we're working to get the structure in place so that this industry can develop," he said on a telephone conference call.

While corn and sugar are used to produce the alternative fuel ethanol, about 90 percent of U.S. biodiesel is derived from soyoil, a byproduct of crushing soybeans into animal feed. Production of the fuel has grown from only 2 million gallons in 2000 to more than 150 million this year, if projections hold true, said Bob Metz, president of the American Soybean Association.

But, he pointed out, key government programs that have fueled biodiesel's growth are coming to an end and must be renewed or extended if the industry is to continue growing.

Metz said the importance of the programs -- the biodiesel tax incentive passed by Congress in 2004, an Agriculture Department bioenergy program started in 2001 and the small producer tax credit included in last summer's energy bill -- "cannot be overemphasized."

Fifty U.S. biodiesel plants are scheduled to come on line in the next 18 months, in addition to the 65 currently producing biodiesel.



If the Cartagena Protocol is to serve its role in facilitating international collaboration on modern biotechnology should be refocus at the Meetings of the Parties (MOPs) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. This issue was raised in a recently released report by the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), an organization that offers public researchers a forum through which they can participate in international negotiations that are relevant for modern biotechnology.

The report and further information about PRRI can be obtained from: Kim Meulenbroeks at Read more about the organization at

UN Food Agency Deputy Resigns Over Leader's 'Culture Of Silence'
The Guardian (London) via The Observer - 05/14/2006 - Jo Revill

The United Nations body which combats world hunger was in turmoil last night after one of its most senior officials resigned, claiming that her boss ruled through 'silence, rumour and fear'. Louise Fresco, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), handed in her notice last week, angered at the way the agency was being run by its Senegalese director-general, Dr. Jacques Diouf. In a scathing letter of resignation, which has been leaked to The Observer, she criticises him for the direction of the agency and its inability to offer the poorest countries proper advice on agriculture. She writes to Diouf: 'I am sad that you have isolated yourself so much from most senior managers. Combined with a lack of transparency in decision-making, you have stimulated a culture of silence, rumours and even fear.

100 countries have ratified the international plant genetic resources treaty

Iran has ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, bringing the number of countries that have deposited their instrument of acceptance to 100, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The treaty, which was approved by the FAO Conference in November 2001, entered into force on 29 June 2004, the ninetieth day after the deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession in accordance with the provisions of the treaty.

Canada: GMO Labeling Fails to Catch On

Canada's voluntary standard for labeling genetically modified food is gathering dust, two years after it was officially adopted. Jeanne Cruikshank, spokesperson for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, which sponsored the national standard, confirmed few manufacturers are voluntarily labeling their product. She attributed this to waning consumer interest, the ability of consumers to differentiate between GM and non-GM products without companies overtly telling them so, and increasing understanding on the part of the consumer of organic as an alternative. Greenpeace is pushing for mandatory GM labeling rules and is focusing most of its energy on convincing the Quebec government to follow the recommendations of a 2004 food safety report drafted by the province's bipartisan agriculture committee, which called on the government to adopt mandatory labeling rules similar to what is employed in Europe. However, even Greenpeace acknowledged a lack of political will to put this in place and Cruikshank admitted such a standard was unlikely if a review of the standard was not reviewed within the first five years.

ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network to be established

The first ECO Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the establishment of ECO Agricultural Biotechnology Network was held in Tehran from April 22-24, 2006. Experts in the field of biotechnology from Iran, Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey participated in the meeting. Secretary general of ECO, Askhat Orazbay, while mentioning the problems in agriculture like yield and quality losses from pests, inadequate water supply, drought, salinity, soil deterioration, low efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers and absence of appropriate biotechnological tools, said that the biotechnology may provide a significant step forward in increasing yields, improving nutrition and ensuring the sustainability of present fragile agriculture ecosystems.

The road to better soybeans just got a big boost

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and USDA have joined forces to work on the study of plant and microbial genomics. The project funded by this partnership is an $11-million-dollar effort to decode the soybean genome. The DOE's Joint Genomics Institute (JGI) works to map the genomes of crops that meet rising needs in energy demand and food consumption. The DOE/JGI expressed interest in soybeans because they're a versatile crop able to be used in food, industrial applications and for biofuels.

Hawaiian papaya: market loss and contamination

Why do creators of the genetically-engineered (GE) papaya fruit have to push so hard to introduce it? If the GE papaya is really a simple solution to a major agricultural disease that farmers want, it would be readily adopted by governments, farmers and markets. However, it is not. The concern over this genetically modified organism (GMO) food is so great, that it creates resistance, loss of markets, contamination and more loss of markets. In Thailand, the government has a ban on field trials and hasn't commercially released the papaya after almost a decade of testing. Farmers have shown resistance and expressed concern that the European Union and Japan don't want to import the GM papaya...

Federal Court Rules For Syngenta In Glyphosate-Tolerant Trait Case
Agriculture Online - 05/11/2006

Syngenta Seeds was the winner in a federal district court ruling on Wednesday regarding the glyphosate-tolerant corn trait GA21. A summary judgment ruling by the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, ruled Syngenta did not infringe Monsanto's patent rights by selling GA21 corn.

Syngenta Shares Rise After Wins U.S. Patent Ruling
Reuters - 05/11/2006 - Annika Breidthardt

ZURICH - Syngenta shares rose to their highest level in more than a month on Thursday after a U.S. court ruled in favor of the Swiss agrochemicals company in a patent fight with U.S. rival Monsanto. Following the ruling, bank LODH raised its rating on Syngenta shares to "buy" from "hold" and increased its price target to 215 francs from 195 francs.

The International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru has repatriated 246 virus-free varieties of native potatoes to the Potato Park in Cusco Department, Peru. These varieties are now yielding 30 percent more than ordinary potatoes. Details of CIP’s work in the Potato Park are available at

India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the country’s main biotech regulatory body, approved 19 Bt cotton hybrids. Of these, 13 contain the BG-I event belonging to nine local seed companies; 2 contain the BG-II event of MAHYCO; 2 contain the cry1Ac gene of JK seeds; and 1 contains a fusion of cry1Ab and cryAc, a GFM event of Nath seeds. While these 18 varieties are approved for cultivation in the Southern cotton growing zone, a remaining one contains the MAHYCO BG-II event, and is approved for cultivation in India’s Central cotton growing zone. This brings India’s total to 63 new hybrids to be sold in the 2006 season, giving the country’s farmers more choices on which varieties to

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry of the Government of India has notified draft rules to amend the country’s Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. The changes involve compulsory labeling of all genetically modified organisms (GMO), or food and feed ingredients produced from GMO’s. This ruling is to ensure that consumers will receive the correct information about the food that they purchase. Read the complete press release and additions to the ruling at

Asia-Middle East 'e-university' gets green light. Asian and Middle Eastern ministers have backed plans to launch an electronic university serving their regions.

China’s government and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently signed a pact that will allow China to sent at least 3,000 of its agricultural experts and technicians to provide help to small farmers and fisher folk in developing countries. The specialists to be deployed will have expertise in irrigation, livestock, fisheries, and post harvest handling. For more information, read the complete news release at

Chinese have great faith in science. One in five people in China thinks science and technology can solve all of the country's problems, according to a report published this week.

Venezuela: scientific knowledge key to social inclusion Venezuela's science minister says that public understanding of science is key for social inclusion. Venezuela's science budget rises to 0.8% of GDP. The Venezuelan government has announced an increase in science spending from 0.3 to 0.8 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

Lara, Venezuela recently hosted the first of three planned courses aimed at raising the human and technical capacity of Venezuela for the production of improved seeds. The initiative is part of an agreement for technical cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela. For more information, visit:

Chile to establish a national system of innovation.

 Chile's newly elected president Michelle Bachelet says investment in research and development will rise to one per cent of GDP.

News in Science

Gene flow from transgenic oilseed rape
Tristan Funk, Peter Westermeier & Gerhard Wenzel

The main objective of this study was the examination of short distance outcrossing of transgenic oilseed rape in the nearest neighborhood. The experimental design allowed the detailed determination of the effects of distance and wind direction on pollination frequencies and distribution. For regulations of co-existence of GM crop cultivation with conventional and organic farming, the relationship between distance and outcrossing is of major interest.

In a three-year field trial, the outcrossing frequencies and distribution from plots with different ratios of transgenic plants (100%, 1.0% and 0.1%) containing the pat-gene for resistance towards the broad-range herbicide glufosinate-ammonium were determined in surrounding acceptor plots within a distance of 3-11 m using a biotest.

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ISB NEWS REPORT - - apr0601

Stimulating leaf linked to heart disease. Chewing khat leaves is a common practice in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but researchers now warn that it can cause severe heart problems.

Virus-Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) was developed by scientists from the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (ARS-USDA). The technique will find scab-resistance genes in wheat and barley seed heads. A team headed by geneticist Steven Scofield developed the test, which temporarily incapacitates wheat or barley genes thought to be important to scab resistance, to see if the plant’s scab resistance also disappears temporarily. also known as Fusarium head blight. Scab is one of the most devastating wheat and barley diseases worldwide, and there are only a few varieties with effective levels of resistance to the disease.

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Soybean insect resistance.

Scientists working on improving soybean have faced several obstacles when working on insect resistance for the crop. Resistance to insects in soybean is a quantitatively inherited trait – that is, more than one gene is involved in the insect resistance process, and simple backcrossing will not transfer all insect resistance genes. Genetic engineering could assist in making soybeans resistant to pest, but Bt genes are widely used, raising issues about the evolution of resistance in susceptible insect populations. To engineer insect resistance into soybean, scientists have to not only introduce Bt genes into soybean cells, but to find, characterize, and use native soybean insect resistance genes to manage insect resistance, as well as broaden the resistance of plants with Bt genes.

S. Zhua and colleagues from the University of Georgia, USA undertake the “Fine Mapping of a Major Insect Resistance QTL in Soybean and its Interaction with Minor Resistance QTLs.” Their article, published in a recent issue of Crop Science, mapped a major quantitative trait locus (QTL-M) for insect resistance from soybean, which controls antibiosis (the ability of a crop to excrete one or several metabolites that can harm organisms) and antixenosis (the ability of a plant to keep pests from colonizing it). Subscribers to Crop Science can read the complete article at

Chile develops drought-tolerant eucalyptus varieties.

Scientists successfully identified and propagated valuable genetic material with increased drought tolerance and improved yield through the selection and micro-propagation of genetic stocks of eucalyptus.

New biofertilizer derived from the microbe Azospirillum is the result of the research team led by Jesús Caballero Mellado of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The new product was shown to increase yields in maize plantations and to have beneficial effects on the environment by reducing the amount of mineral fertilizers farmers have to apply to their crops. Azospirillum is a bacterium that lives in close association with the roots of some plant species, and is valuable for agriculture due to its ability to render soil phosphorous, an essential plant nutrient, in a form that can be used by the plant. It also fixes atmospheric nitrogen and promotes the development of a more extensive root system, beneficial for both improved nutrient acquisition and water uptake.

Altering glucosinolate profiles modulates disease resistance in plants Günter Brader and his colleagues from the University of Helsinki and the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University of Denmark explore the effects on disease resistance of expressing different single glucosinolate biosynthetic CYP79 genes in Arabidopsis plants. Their report, “is published in the latest issue of the Plant Journal. Arabidopsis plants expressing CYP79D2 from cassava show enhanced resistance against the bacterial soft-rot pathogen Erwinia carotovora, while overexpression of the sorghum CYP79A1 and of the endogenous CYP79A2 provide increased protection towards the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae.

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Fungi against fungi. Trichoderma grows toward the hyphae of other fungi, coil around them, and disintegrate them through the secretion of degrading enzymes.Ada Viterbo and Ilan Chet of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, report on the isolation of TasHyd1, a gene that encodes a hydrophobin-like protein that is detected in young Trichoderma mycelia. Trichoderma mutants lacking TasHyd could still attack Rhizoctonia solani pathogens in vivo, but failed to interact with the plant. The authors therefore show that TasHyd1 is specifically required for root attachment and colonization, and is not needed for the mycoparasitic ability of Trichoderma. To read the abstract of the article, entitled “TasHyd1, a new hydrophobin gene from the biocontrol agent Trichoderma asperellum, is involved in plant root colonization”, visit:

Gene boost lets plant tolerate low boron in soil.

Researchers have genetically modified plants to tolerate low levels of boron in soil — a nutrient deficiency that affects crops worldwide.

Researchers in China have developed a salt tolerant grass, which they say could help combat desertification.

Sulfonylurea (SU)-tolerant sunflower.

To meet the demand for oilseed and biofuel, science company Dupont has introduced the first sulfonylurea (SU)-tolerant sunflower hybrids in Europe — Pioneer® brand sunflower hybrids with the Express® SX Herbicide-Tolerant trait. The hybrids provide post-emergent control option for annual broadleaf weeds, a leading problem affecting sunflower yield.

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