News in October 2006
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Tainted Spinach Raises Big Question of Manure on Food Crops.
Dennis T. Avery And Alex A. Avery,
Center For Global Food Issues, October 3, 2006.

Contaminated raw spinach has just killed at least one person, brought devastating kidney failure to 23, hospitalized more than 75, and sickened more than 150 people across America. The deadly spinach has been traced back to Natural Selections Foods, the largest grower of organic lettuce and spinach in the United States. Organic rules bar the use of manufactured fertilizer on their crops, so organics use composted manure and other animal wastes on their fields. Animal manure is the ultimate source of the virulent E. coli O157:H7, which contaminated the spinach. The Organic Trade Association responded that organic food was safe because farmers compost their manure. Dr. Tauxe responded that "Unfortunately, knowledge of the critical times and temperatures needed to make composted animal manures microbiologically safe is incomplete." A Swiss study last year found "no significant differences" in O157:H7 prevalence between organic and conventional dairy farms. Claims that "grain feeding" of cattle causes O157:H7 to flourish are also unsupported; various studies have found the opposite. Washing the food can't fully protect consumers either. Rutgers University has shown that lettuce (and likely spinach) can take up O157:H7 via its roots and harbour the pathogens inside the leaves! In short, there is no practical way to ensure full safety in the food crops fertilized with manure, composted or not.


EuropaBio sessions at EuroBiO  (October 25-27, 2006; Paris)
includes panels:

Biotech & Food Safety: Wednesday, October 25th 9-10.30 am;
Financing Young Innovative Companies: Thursday, October 26th 9 -10.30 am;
BioIndustry & Environment Challenges: Thursday, October 26th 11 am -12.30 pm.

Genomics and Society: Retrospects and Prospects
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date: 26 - 28 March 2007

"European Conference on Biorefinery Research" - Documents available

Sustainable development and the future of European agriculture, EURAGRI members conference XX

The conference considered the notion of sustainable development and agriculture in Europe and its implications for research and development over the next 20 to 30 years.

EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research Workshops: - Future of Livestock Genomics, Brussels, Belgium, July 2006 : Report available

Biorefineries: the cornerstone of a sustainable bio-based economy

Green energy and bio products are solid alternatives to fossil fuels and products made from oil, in the short to medium term. The large-scale transformation of biomass into a wide range of end-products will take place in bio refineries. A conference organised by the European Commission with the support of the Finnish Presidency on 19-20 October in Helsinki (Finland) unveils industry and research perspectives of current and future bio refineries.

Introduction to risk assessment for the deliberate release of GMOs: Assisting decision-making in a biosafety framework.
May 14-18 2007, Treviso, Italy.

Workshop organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare. Deadline for applications is 30 November 2006.

See or contact for more information

The Entomological Society of America's 2006 Annual Meeting
December 10-13, 2006; Indianapolis, IN (November 1 - Last day to register online)

Symposia topics will include crop protection, biotechnology, genomic research, insecticide resistance, morphology, ecology, evolution, medical and veterinary entomology, and more. In addition, there will be various meetings, social events and competitions, such as the Linnaean Games and the Purdue Cockroach Racing & Cricket Spitting Contest.

For a full list of symposia, meetings and other events, go to:
Register online now at:
For more information, visit;

United Nations Food Summit Discusses Genetically Modified Crops.
The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology,
October 03, 2006 via

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the summit by urging greater access for the world's farmers to land, credit, markets and technology - including technology to help them grow more resistant crops. Against the backdrop of possible famine in southern Africa. "There is no shortage of food on the planet," Annan told delegates at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. "But while some countries produce more than they need to feed their people, others do not, and many of these cannot afford to import enough to make up the gap." During that meeting, delegates pledged to reduce the number of hungry people in the world from 800 million to 400 million by 2015. Today, the number of people without enough to eat, however, remains at 800 million, according to AP. Non-governmental organizations are also pressing summit delegates to open markets to farmers in the developing world, arguing that subsidized imports from the European Union and United States were putting them out of business.

'The 9th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms  - Biosafety Research and Environmental Risk Assessment - Korea Workshop'.

More than 250 regulators and biosafety researchers from public institutions and industry participated in the 9th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms Biosafety Research and Environmental Risk Assessment (September 24-29, 2006, Jeju Island, Korea).

The presentations and discussions showed that although much data has been generated by over a decade of GMO biosafety research, several important questions remain to be answered, e.g.:

bulletAre the questions being asked by researchers really important? What's the use of the data generated thus far for effectively decision-making by regulators? What are the significant questions for research?
bulletWhat are appropriate end points for measuring environmental impact?
bulletWhat's the acceptable risk? When is there enough information to make a good regulatory decision (how much precision is required?)

This meeting served to provide a forum for leading biosafety researchers to share the latest information on the research being conducted worldwide. However, it served to highlight the fact that biosafety research is still dominated by developed country researchers.

The best illustration of developed country domination was the pair of talks on biosafety research ("Two Decades of EC Sponsored Research on the Safety of GMOs", and "Risk Assessment Research in Developing Countries: The Program for Biosafety Systems BBI Grants"). The first represented 20 years of biosafety research in the EU, the second represented 2 years of biosafety research in the developing world. The first represented 5 billion Euros of work, the second less than 4 million US dollars. The developed country domination, coupled with the continuing lack of capacity on the part of developing country regulators.

Finally, one continuing message: Once again the question was asked whether there was any scientifically verified evidence of harm to human health or the environment as a result of growing genetically engineered crops. The answer continues to be no.

The summary of the presentations and posters as well as the participants list are downloadable from the internet:,

Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being
AAAS Annual Meeting, February 15-19, 2007; San Francisco

Books & Reports

"Challenging Nature, The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life by Lee M. Silver
Ecco (HarperCollins), New York, 2006. 460 pp. $26.95, C$34.95. ISBN 0-06-058267-7."
Ref.: Michael A. Goldman, Science, Oct. 20, 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5798, p. 423

Global Database of Women Scientists and Professionals. from: Amelia Goh, ICRAF

We are the Gender & Diversity Program (G&D) of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and would like to share information about our work and resources with your members. G&D runs a Global Database of Women Scientists and Professionals. The purpose of our database is twofold:

(1) to inform women around the world, in a timely manner, about job vacancies in the CGIAR and other international organizations,
(2) to ensure that women everywhere receive timely information on fellowships, scholarships and grants.

Biosafety Virtual Library: Call for contributions
Organisation: United Nations Environment Programme.

UN expands access to agricultural information for researchers in poor countries
Organisation: Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture

Call for topic editors and authors: Encyclopedia of Earth
Organisation: Environmental Information Coalition

Pusztai affair - New summary
by Dr. Nina V. Fedoroff, Willaman Professor of Life Sciences and Evan Pugh Professor, Pennsylvania State

Read on at

New Issue of AgBioForum
Volume 9, Number 2, 2006. Contents....

bulletBt Cotton Adoption in The United States and China: International Trade and Welfare Effects - G.B. Frisvold, J.M. Reeves, & R. Tronstad
bulletImpact of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin on Dairy Farm Cost of Production: Evidence from Multiyear Data - L.W. Tauer
bulletAgricultural Biotechnology and Organic Agriculture:
bulletNational Organic Standards and Labeling of GM Products - K. Giannakas & A. Yiannaka
bulletWho Adopts What Kind of Technologies? The Case of Bt Eggplant in India - D.E. Kolady & W. Lesser
bulletPublic Perceptions of Tobacco Biopharming - J. Nevitt, B.F. Mills, D.W. Reaves, & G.W. Norton
bulletPotential Regional Trade Implications of Adopting Bt Cowpea in West and Central Africa - A.S. Langyintuo & J. Lowenberg-DeBoer
bulletDoes Application Matter? An Examination of Public Perception of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications - A.J. Knight

Building Capacities for the Effective Implementation of the Biosafety Protocol: What Have We Accomplished in the Last Six Years?
Eric Tamale,  Biosafety Protocol News, October 24,2006 via

This article, by a member of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) Biosafety Division, overviews what has been accomplished since the adoption of the CBD's Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2000, as well as what unmet needs and gaps remain. The article says some major achievements include the following:

  1. with assistance from the global UN Environment Program/ Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF) project, more than 120 countries have developed their national biosafety frameworks (NBFs), and at least 12 other countries have embarked on implementing theirs;
  2. many countries have established institutional mechanisms for administering biosafety;
  3. a number of short-term training workshops and a few long-term courses on biosafety have been organized; and
  4. "some progress" has been made in building capacity for risk assessment and risk management. The article says that there is still a need to build on these achievements by strengthening human resources and institutional capacities in developing countries and countries in transition.

A survey carried out by the SCBD in 2005 found that major capacity-building gaps existed, especially in the areas of:

  1. technology transfer;
  2. identification of genetically modified organisms (GMOs);
  3. risks assessment and risk management; and
  4. the handling of socio-economic considerations.

The article can be viewed online at:

Agricultural Biotechnology: Legal Liability Regimes from Comparative and International Perspectives
Stuart J. Smyth & Drew L. Kershen, Global Jurist Advances, Vol. 6, No. 2, Article 3.
Full paper at

As agricultural biotechnology has become an agronomic alternative, discussion has emerged about what legal liabilities, if any, exists for those who create, distribute, and produce transgenic seeds and crops. Many governments have debated legal liability as related to agricultural biotechnology.

In this article, the authors offer fresh insights on legal liability from comparative law and international law perspectives. The article begins by comparing Canadian and American legal liability regimes in agricultural biotechnology. Using this North American comparison as background, the article then discusses liability issues by contrasting the statutory regimes from Denmark and Germany. Once the comparisons and contrasts between Canadian, American, Danish, and German law have been presented, the article focuses on the on-going discussion of legal liability and agricultural biotechnology at the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (BSP).

The authors posit that understanding the comparisons and contrasts between Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Germany assists greatly in understanding the issues and debates about legal liability and agricultural biotechnology at the international level in the BSP negotiations.

Europe - EU

How competent is the Commissionaire?
Editorial, Nature Biotechnology - 24, 1178; Oct. 2006.
Reproduced in AgBioView with the approval of the editor.

An EU Commissioner has a meeting of minds with an antibiotech agitator. The EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and long-time biotech critic Jeremy Rifkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends share some common sentiments. They both are passionate about the environment. They both purport to embrace new plant breeding technologies. And they're both pathologically averse to GM crops. Earlier this year, at a meeting entitled 'Freedom of Choice Conference on GMO [genetically modified organism] Co-existence' Dimas declared: "GM products raise a whole new series of possible risks to the environment, notably potential longer-term effects that could impact on biodiversity." At the same conference, he claimed that "terminator technology" is on the market (it is not) and "small farmers are being put out of business by GMOs" (they are not). But he was almost gushing about what he terms "upgraded conventional varieties" created using marker-assisted selection (MAS) technology. Like Rifkin, Dimas sees conventional "crop varieties upgraded through MAS as an alternative to GM crops." At the conference, he was particularly keen to promote upgraded crops as such. However, unlike Rifkin, Dimas seems unaware of a fatal flaw in his whole-hearted espousal of MAS. Commissioner Dimas, on the other hand, in his simple-minded, 'anything-but' approach to GM products, has not understood that a non-GM crop produced via MAS could be just as risky as a GM product; he hasn't grasped that upgraded crops with traits (e.g., herbicide resistance) like those of GM varieties could, by definition, carry the same risks as the GM variety. From an environmental risk assessment perspective, it is the new trait in the plant that is important, not the way in which a gene(s) associated with a trait ended up in the plant. Unwittingly then, Dimas has disclosed for all to see, the glaring inequity and inadequacy of the current European regulatory framework. Because of its discriminatory and absolute emphasis on anything remotely GM to the exclusion of anything else, European regulation subjects a GM crop containing a trait analogous to that found in a conventional upgraded crop to intense environmental risk scrutiny, but leaves Dimas' upgraded crop with the same trait completely unregulated. The question that the Environment Commissioner should be asking himself is: what if that trait were harmful?

Europe's Farmers Have A Right to Cultivate GM Crops.
Renate Sommer, Member European Parliament, Brussels; European Voice, Oct. 19, 2006.

I argue, however, that it is the transatlantic split on GM food which depicts the dilemma facing regulators and farmers around the world as they try to balance the opportunities and perceived risks of GM technology.

Concerns over safety tend to ignore the fact that this technology is now more than 30 years old. During this time, robust pre-market safety assessment procedures have been established by the scientific and regulatory community worldwide and are shared by nations from Austria to Australia. And the resulting boost to sustainable crop production has been achieved without any evidence emerging of harm to humans or the environment. On the contrary: improved yields and increased food security have been attained while cutting the use of pesticides, minimising soil erosion that conventional weed control methods entail and reducing carbon emissions through reduced reliance on fuel-intensive crop maintenance.

Meanwhile, 8.5 million farmers around the world chose seeds based on this technology last year - including farmers from five EU member states. On the other hand, China, Brazil, India and many other nations are supporting large-scale biotechnology programmes. But Europe still hesitates. And this carries costs - certainly for Europe and possibly beyond.

The price of hesitation for Europe ranges from 'hard' losses of agricultural efficiency, industrial development, exports and jobs, to more subtle losses - in the quality of scientific debate in Europe, in the operating conditions for innovative companies, and even in the credibility of European governance.

The price beyond Europe may include discouragement of the use of a technology that is desperately needed in developing nations that trade with the EU: will South Africa dare to plant drought tolerant crops if it will prejudice their exports to a hostile EU?

Europe should take effective action to ensure that the existing regulatory system works as intended: to allow European farmers, industry and consumers access to safe and beneficial biotech products. At a minimum, this would include ensuring that farmers are not subject to unpunished destruction of their crops by lawless vandals, that regional and national authorities respect European farmers' rights to cultivate approved GM products and that timely approvals of new products proceed on the basis of the best scientific assessment.

Why Green Biotech Scientists Need to 'Come Out of the Lab'.
Cordis, Oct 12, 2006

Biotechnology still has a great deal to offer the agricultural sector, but more needs to be done to help the public understand the benefits of 'green biotechnologies'. This was the main message from a public hearing on the prospects and challenges for biotechnology in European agriculture, held in the European Parliament on 10 October. The assembled experts outlined some of the advantages biotechnology offers to the agricultural sector. These range from pest resistant crops and crops with enhanced nutritional values to trees with shorter generation times.

However, the 'green' (agricultural) sector in Europe still suffers from a relatively poor public image. A recent Eurobarometer survey showed that while Europeans' attitude towards technology is generally positive, they remain largely sceptical of the value of genetically modified organisms. Much of this can be explained by the fact that people are only aware of the risks of GMOs, and do not see the benefits they offer. Most of the speakers noted that more information and education is needed to help the public understand the positive side of biotechnology in the agriculture sector. 'Scientists have a responsibility to come out of the lab,' commented Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness. However, while education and information will undoubtedly help the public to form a more informed opinion about GMOs, this will take time. Meanwhile, both consumers and many farmers will continue to demand GMO free products and seeds. Developing co-existence strategies for GM- and non-GM crops is extremely complicated. Some crops can coexist more easily than others, but much of the data on issues such as how far pollen can travel is still disputed. For more information:

New Version: EU-AgriNet

This European portal is dedicated to EU-funded research in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development. Users will find here all information related to research themes, research projects, on-going and future calls, related policies, future research and all practical information (calendar, contacts, publications). This information website is managed by DG Research – E3 Unit, in charge of “the safety of food production systems". This portal covers past, on-going and future activities, led under the several Research & Development Framework Programmes (FP4, FP5, FP6 & FP7).

EU, US and Canada to collaborate to increase understanding of the genetic make-up of human diseases

The European Commission, US National Institutes of Health and Genome Canada are today announcing a global collaborative research programme designed to lead to better understanding of human diseases.

Patents key to unlocking Europe's knowledge economy

The president of the European Patent Office, Alain Pompidou, recently warned that for Europe to achieve its goal of having the most advanced knowledge-based economy by 2010, it must devote more attention to developing patents for its research results.

Food Quality and Safety research: first results from FP6

On 12 December in Brussels, the European Commission will present first results from projects in the area of food quality and safety which were funded from the EU's Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6, 2002-2006). A dozen co-operative research projects with international teams will present their newest findings related to the quality and safety of our food.

Germany breaks ground on state-of-the-art European research centre

Construction recently began on the Advanced Training Centre (ATC), an initiative undertaken by several European countries to provide young researchers with cutting-edge facilities to carry out their work in life sciences. The Centre is located on the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) campus in Heidelberg, Germany, and is the result of the combined efforts of The German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the EMBL member states.

China-EU Science & Technology Year

The magnitude of the relationship between China and the European Union has been growing progressively for more than a decade now, and has matured into a veritable partnership. Both sides have identified scientific research and development as a key driver of economic success and sustainability. The China-EU Science & Technology Year (CESTY) was born in the context of this deepening partnership as a way to foster a more fluid and enduring exchange of ideas, people and resources.

Zebrafish let you watch cardiovascular development

A new Zebrafish research platform, part of the European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN), has been launched to aid in the advancement of cardiovascular research.

R&D, Expenditure: Private research investment in EU set to accelerate

European companies expect to boost their R&D investment by some 5% per year over the next three years, according to a new survey by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemicals sectors account for most of that growth


Spain Approved Eleven New Biotech Varieties

Eleven new transgenic maize varieties, all containing the MON 810 event, have been approved in Spain this month, bringing to 45 the total number of biotech varieties that can be planted commercially in the country. This approval represents the normalization of Bt maize in the country, as farmers are now able to chose from a wide range of cultivars for those most adapted to their needs. The approval was welcomed by Esteban Andrés, secretary general of the General Association of Maize Producers. "In times where the margin of profitability are the lowest, biotechnology is the only technology that can make the cultivation of maize in areas infested with stem borers a viable option," said Andrés in a declaration to the Antama Foundation, a not-for-profit organization committed to share information on the potential benefits of biotechnology to agriculture. More information (in Spanish) available at:

Addressing Europe's responsibilities towards the developing world
Location: Brussels, Belgium, Date: 11 - 11 October 2006.

Life Sciences Partnering China and Europe: Forum
Location: London, United Kingdom, Date: 11 - 11 October 2006

Project: Release into the environment of genetically modified plum

cv. Stanley clone C-5 containing the coat protein gene of Plum pox virus. To access the summary notification please visit the website:

Royal Society Short Visit Programme
Organisation: The Royal Society, Closing date: 1 December 2006


South Africa: Scientists Plan to Create Genetically Modified Grape

Scientists from the University of Stellenbosch have applied to the regulatory authorities for permission to start field trials for genetically modified grapevines in Western Cape. The trial is part of the scientists' ongoing research to find ways to protect grapevines from fungal infections, which damage the plants and reduce crop yields, says project manager Sarita Groenewald. There are no genetically engineered grapes on the South African market. If successful and approved by the industry, the new grape is expected to change the industry's output and supply levels. The proposed field trial would test the stability of grapevines that have had "reporter genes" inserted into them...

GM bananas can wait

Anna Vézina and Richard Markham argue that GM bananas are still inadequate to fight bacterial wilt disease, and should not override other solutions

Kenya approves a national policy on biotechnology

A new policy approved by the government gives the go-ahead for the use, research and development of biotechnology in Kenya.


ELF Activists Plead Guilty in 2001 UW Biotech Lab Firebombing.
KOMO 4 NEWS, October 4, 2006

SEATTLE - Two women pleaded guilty Wednesday for burning down a University of Washington horticulture building -- an arson claimed by the Earth Liberation Front. Jennifer Kolar, 33, of Seattle, and Lacey Phillabum, 31, of Spokane pleaded guilty in federal court in Tacoma to conspiracy, arson and using a firebomb.  Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors Kolar faces five to seven years in prison and Phillabaum three to five years when they are sentenced in January. The Earth Liberation Front claimed it was trying to stop genetic engineering of trees with the May 21st, 2001, arson that destroyed the Center for Urban Horticulture on the campus in Seattle. It was rebuilt at a cost of $7 million. U.S. Attorney Mike McKay says the guilty pleas show violent acts are not a valid form of political speech.  "We don't think the activities of ELF and ALF are in any way reasonable or should be condoned in civilized society," McKay said. "And we're making that statement today and two individuals will go to federal prison."

Syngenta’s corn rootworm biotech trait approved in the USA

Syngenta announced today that its corn rootworm trait, Agrisure™ RW, has received registration approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Syngenta will launch for sale corn seed containing Agrisure RW for the 2007 growing season in the USA, the world’s largest corn market. "The approval of Agrisure RW in this fast-growing biotech market is a major step in our strategy to bring all three of the leading input traits to the corn market," says Jeff Cox, Head of Syngenta Global Corn and Soybeans. "This new high-performing trait offers growers industry-leading control of rootworm while delivering full yield potential." Agrisure RW will be available to US growers as a single trait and stacked with glyphosate tolerance through elite hybrids from Garst®, Golden Harvest® and NK®...

Brazil's 2006-07 Soy Crop to be 50% GMO, Researcher Says.
MarketWatch by Dow Jones, Oct 4, 2006

SAO PAULO  -- Brazil's 2006-07 soy crop will be at least 50% transgenic, said Amelio Dall Agnol, a researcher at Brazil's top crop science institute, Embrapa. In the 2005-06 crop, some 9 million hectares of genetically modified soybeans were planted out of a total 22 million. This season should see an additional 2 million hectares of genetically modified soy added, Agnol said, following last years ruling by the government that permitted GMO soy to be planted. Brazil soy growers are expected to plant under 21 million hectares of soy in the 2006-07 crop.


China unveils plans to boost scientific data sharing

China's science minister has announced a government initiative to increase data sharing through an open access portal.

Malaysia's Biotech Council Approves Biosafety Act.

Malaysia's National Biosafety-Biotechnology Council approved the Biosafety Act in a meeting chaired by Prime. The Biosafety Act is expected to complete the National Biotechnology Policy which aims to regulate the use of genetically modified organisms. It is expected to be discussed in Parliament this November. In related developments, the proposal to set up a National Biosafety Board will also be tackled in Parliament next year. The Board will be responsible for approving the import and export of biological products. In addition, a Genetic Modification Advisory Committee composed of scientists will be formed to assist the Board in implementing policies. mail Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) at for additional information. Visit MABICs website at for other updates on Malaysia's biotechnology activities.


Directory of Biosafety Organisations – BCH.

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity recently announced the launch of a new directory of organisations involved in biosafety activities. Accessible through the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH), the directory profiles the nature of work undertaken by each institution, focusing on its relevance to biosafety, and provides detailed contact information as well as links to relevant records in the BCH. It currently contains 134 records. See or contact for more information.

Trading carbon could reduce deforestation

Industrialised nations could slow down carbon emissions by funding projects that reduce deforestation, says the World Bank.

The OECD Council agreed to the establishment of the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials, as a subsidiary body of the Chemicals Committee on Thursday, 14 September. This working party is established to address human health and environmental safety aspects of manufactured nanomaterials in the chemicals sector.

News in Science

Researchers Uncertain How to Tame Peanut Allergy.
Jame Zhang, The Wall Street Journal
via October 3, 2006.

Peanuts aren't nuts at all, of course, but legumes, or seeds, as are beans and lentils. An estimated 1.5 million Americans, including some 600,000 children, experience allergic reactions to peanuts, ranging from hives to nausea to sometimes-fatal anaphylactic shock. With most of the annual 150 food-allergy deaths blamed on peanuts, many schools have created peanut-free zones or gone totally "peanut free." The number of children with peanut allergies has skyrocketed, doubling from 1997 to 2002, according to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. And it's a mystery why peanut allergies are causing more problems. One explanation is that physicians are more adept at detecting them. Peanut farmers and food processors have given $5.6 million over the past decade to eight scientists, mainly for peanut-allergy work, says Howard Valentine, of the American Peanut Council.

Two researchers -- Wesley Burks, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, and Hugh Sampson, his counterpart at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine -- are trying to create a vaccine. They have slightly modified the three peanut proteins responsible for most reactions so they don't trigger such strong reactions from human mast cells. Another experimental therapy aims to reduce the severity of reactions. Burks's team administers powdered or liquid peanut proteins to patients in incrementally increasing doses, starting with 0.001 peanut the first day, to one whole peanut six months later. They hope one day to develop a drug or a physician-administered therapy. Peanut interests have helped to fund the work of Peggy Ozias-Akins, a horticulture professor at the University of Georgia, Tifton. She wants to develop a plant whose peanuts are free of the three major protein allergens. Screening the genetic structure of peanuts harvested on an experimental farm, Ozias-Akins is searching for ones with a defunct Ara h 2 gene, which is responsible for a protein that causes reactions in about 90 percent of patients with peanut allergy. When she finds plants with the defunct gene, she'll use them in a traditional breeding program to produce less-allergenic plants. She expects it will take at least three years to breed the plants and test them in animals. Ozias-Akins's team also is trying to disable the Ara h 2 gene by modifying the peanut plant's genetic structure. She shoots cloned copies of the gene into a peanut, which can create a disabled gene that suppresses the function of the original one. Her team is growing plants with a disabled Ara h 2 gene in the greenhouse and testing whether the peanuts contain the allergy-causing protein.

Bacteria could double Chilean copper production.

Bacteria discovered by Chilean scientists could make it possible to extract copper from low-grade ores in a clean and sustainable way.

GM viruses may help cure Hepatitis B infections

A promising new method to treat Hepatitis B uses a GM virus to transport a molecular weapon to where the virus reproduces.

Genetically Enhanced Tomatoes Could Reduce Cardiovascular Disease.

Transgenic Flavonoid Tomato Intake Reduces C-Reactive Protein in Human C-Reactive Protein Transgenic Mice More Than Wild Type Tomato; Rein et al. Journal of Nutrition, 2006; 136: 2331-2337).

Tomatoes, genetically modified to contain a higher level of flavonoids, have in a recent study shown to substantially reduce a protein, the so-called C-reactive protein (CRP), in mice. CRP is linked to inflammatory processes in mice as well as human beings and is associated with a higher risk of heart and vascular diseases as well as type-2 diabetes.

To compare the effects of flavonoid-enriched and conventional tomatoes, scientist daily fed two groups of mice 12 milligrams of genetically enhanced and conventional tomato peel respectively. To a human adult, this is equivalent to a daily consumption of approximately 230 grams, or three fresh tomatoes. After seven weeks, the level of C-reactive protein was reduced considerably in both groups of mice. However, the level was significantly lower in the group of mice fed genetically modified tomato peel.

The biological mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables reduce human C-reactive protein and thus exert their benefits on human health are not fully understood and are likely to be numerous. Nevertheless, Professor Dr. Uwe Sonnewald, University of Erlangen, coordinator of the study, stresses the importance of the findings: "It shows that genetic enhancement of fruits and vegetables may in the future allow an optimization of the human diet and help reduce diseases."

GM Peanut is Enriched with Vitamins.
Manila Bulletin, October 23, 2006
Andhra Pradesh, India

A genetically-modified (GM) peanut will no longer merely be protein-rich but also pro-Vitamin A-rich with betacarotene genes from corn now being embedded into it by a Filipino-headed international research agency.

Since 2003, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been developing peanut with Vitamin A enhancement in answer to extensive Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) specially among children in developing countries.

Dr. Kiran K. Shirma, ICRISAT principal scientist genetic transformation and agribusiness incubator head, said peanut holds a high potential of Vitamin A enhancement more than other crops. "Vitamin A is oil-soluble. If it's put in peanut, you can aim for higher levels," he said.

Peanut may have advantage over rice in this nutrient enrichment since the pro-Vitamin A betacarotene-rich Golden Rice being developed by scientists has only 22 micrograms up to 37 (MCG) per gram betacarotene content. But the GM peanut's potential betacarotene level is a significantly more. "We don't know how much we can get, but we aim for 500 to 600 micrograms per gram. It's achievable because there is a similar study in mustard which has 30 to 40 percent oil (where nutrient level was raised substantially using the same strategy)," he said.

'Genetically modified tobacco plants helped slash the cost of vital inflammation research.'
John Miner, London Free Press (Ontario), October 25, 2006

London scientists have succeeded in using genetically engineered tobacco plants to treat inflammatory bowel disease, a breakthrough that holds out hope of a new treatment for the debilitating disease. London scientists have succeeded in using genetically engineered tobacco plants to treat inflammatory bowel disease, a breakthrough that holds out hope of a new treatment for the debilitating disease.

The London scientists, a team that combined medical and agricultural researchers, modified tobacco plants to produce the human protein interleukin-10, known to reduce inflammation in humans. Fed to mice with an inflammatory disease, interleukin-10 reduced the severity of the inflammation and improved the health of the mice. Inflammatory bowel disease includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease which affect more than one million people in North America, including 100,000 Canadians. The research results were published in Plant Biotechnology Journal by the research team which included scientists from Agriculture Canada, the Lawson Health Research Institute, and Plantigen, a discovery company spun off from Lawson.

By using tobacco plants engineered to produce the protein, the scientists were able to slash the production costs. If usual pharmaceutical fermentation techniques had been used, the costs of the study on mice would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. As an added precaution, all of the tobacco plants with interleukin-10 were grown indoors, and a mutant tobacco variety was used that doesn't produce any seeds.

Scientists discover how body recognises TB

Research that reveals how the body's immune system detects TB could help develop treatments to artificially trigger an immune response to fight TB.

Biotech tomatoes for edible malaria vaccines?

Malaria affects 300–500 million people annually, and over two billion individuals reside in areas where the disease is endemic. A proposal to deliver malarial vaccines using tomatoes, published recently in the journal Medical Hypothesis, was forwarded by Kamal Chowdhurya and Omar Bagasra at Chaflin University, South Carolina. Tomatoes with different antigens for malaria would be identified by the different fruit sizes, shapes and colors. By using edible vaccines, the authors hope that the logistical difficulties in immunizing over a million children living in malaria prone areas can be overcome, at a fraction of a cost of a regular vaccination. “Our hypothesis is to immunize the children/infants by feeding them one variety of tomato at a time, 3–6 weeks apart”, said the researchers. The researchers expect that the low dose of antigens that are administered should be enough to trigger an immune response, protecting the children from the malarial parasite in the future. Several challenges need to be resolved before tomato can be used to produce these biopharmaceuticals. Among these include the development of tomato lines with consistent high gene expression levels; and conducting studies assessing the risks of out-crossing among the transgenic crop and their close relatives via pollination. For more details, the complete paper can be accessed online by subscribers at

Test To Gauge Link Between GMOs And Allergic Reactions Developed
Hindustan Times - 01-Oct-2006

A researcher at Michigan State University may soon help to end the debate about whether or not genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as engineered foods have the potential to cause allergic reactions, for he has developed the first animal model to test whether such foods could cause human allergic reactions. Venu Gangur, MSU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, has now received a 447,000 dollar grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to validate the test. Gangur and students in his lab have developed a mouse model - the first of its kind - to test the allergy-causing potential of genetically engineered foods. CROP BIOTECH NET

Genome archaeology illuminates the genetic engineering debate

Genome Research's cover story for Oct. 2 tells a tale of "genome archaeology" by genetic researchers who dug deeply into the long history of maize and rice. Their resulting insights into plant genomic evolution may well fuel the fires of the genetically modified organism (GMO) controversy. "Our findings elucidate an active evolutionary process in which nature inserts genes much like modern biotechnologists do. Now we must reassess the allegations that biotechnologists perform 'unnatural acts,' thereby creating 'Frankenfoods,'" said Professor Joachim Messing, project leader and director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey...

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