News in August 2008
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General - Global

Is Biotechnology A Victim of Anti-Science Bias in Scientific Journals?
Miller, H., Morandini, P., & Ammann, K (2008), Trends in Biotechnology, Electronic Prepublication Febr. 17, March, 2008, pp 122-125; doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2007.11.011
Excerpt below. References in full paper at

Primarily outside the scientific community, misapprehensions and misinformation about recombinant DNA- modified (also known as 'genetically modified', or 'GM') plants have generated significant 'pseudo-controversy' over their safety that has resulted in unscientific and excessive regulation (with attendant inflated development costs) and disappointing progress. But pseudo controversy and sensational claims have originated within the scientific community as well, and even scholarly journals' treatment of the subject has been at times unscientific, one-sided and irresponsible. These shortcomings have helped to perpetuate 'The Big Lie' - that recombinant DNA technology applied to agriculture and food production is unproven, unsafe, untested, unregulated and unwanted. Those misconceptions, in turn, have given rise to unwarranted opposition and tortuous, distorted public policy.

Another critics of IAASTD and peer reviewed journals
Peer Review Contestations in the Era of Transgenic Crops
S. Shantharam, S. B. Sullia and G. Shivakumara Swamy Current Science, Vol. 95, No. 2, 25 July 2008 167

Whoever thought that a harmless professional scientific activity such as peer review to maintain high standards in scientific advancement would become a tool for political activism in the 21st century? However, that is precisely what is happening today in the world of modern biotechnology with respect to transgenic crops, or genetically modified (GM) crops in common parlance. Gone are the days when only scientists were interested in the research work of fellow scientists, and one could evaluate it critically to ensure quality in science.

Today, different kinds of stakeholders want to have a say on what happens in science, how it is conducted, funded, and even determine what is permissible in science as it is being played out in a fight between scientists and the anti-GM crop activists at a World Bank sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). This IAASTD report was officially released on 15 April 2008 in Johannesburg, by emphatically stating that modern biotechnology and GM crops are not essential for the future of agriculture or for ensuring food security in the developing countries. This is because the anti-GM NGOs used a variety of scientific reports and publications that had been ostensibly 'peer' reviewed. This report will have long-lasting negative impact on future funding of agricultural biotechnology in the developing world for decades to come.

Most often, controversies are resolved within the scientific community with the help of experimental evidences and empirical data. However, in the case of GM crops, a new global movement has emerged to 'contest' every scientific datum presented in any peer-reviewed scientific journal with regard to their efficacy, safety, environmental impacts, and socio-economic. In the last few years, editorial decisions of leading research journals like Science, Nature, Lancet, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), British Food Journal and Nature Biotechnology have attracted severe criticisms.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for more research into the tropical root crop cassava as a way to help poor countries threatened by spiraling food and oil prices. Cassava is a staple food for millions of poverty stricken people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia where it provides as much as a third of daily calories. At a conference in Belgium, members of the FAO-facilitated Global Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement (GCP21) reviewed the current state of cassava production worldwide and future prospects.

The media release is available at

For information on the GCP21, visit
Plant Breeding Electronic Journal Club

is launching by the GIPB (Global Partnership Iniciativ efor Plant Breeding Kapacity Building) Knowledge Resource Center. The Club is virtual place that allows communities to meet and critically evaluate plant breeding and related fields' articles in the scientific literature.  This e-Journal Club is directed to professionals and students interested in discussing relevant plant breeding themes and issues.   Its major objectives are to help improve skills of understanding and debating current topics of interest to plant breeding and to promote intellectually stimulating and professionally rewarding exchange with colleagues from around the world.    In  order to participate you just need to follow instructions available in the front page of the GIPB website (

Also, we want to remind you that GIPB has recently published the following Calls for Proposals and Expressions of Interest:

1.  In collaboration with the FAO Inter-Departmental Working Group on Bioenergy  GIPB launched a  call for expanded up-to-date information on genetic resources and breeding of selected species, together with detailed analysis of their potential as bioenergy crops adaptable to sustainable smallholder production systems.   Letters of Intention may be submitted to GIPB by September 1st, 2008.   Visit the GIPB website ( or click here for detailed information on this call.

2.  In coordination with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (The Trust) and the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), GIPB launched its first call for proposals to support efforts to widen the genetic and adaptability base of improved cultivars in developing countries.  The call from the Trust focuses on phenotyping, the GCP call on genotyping and the GIPB call on pre-breeding.  Visit the GIPB website ( or click here for detailed information on these calls.

Books & Articles


A new website covering news and commentary in the field of agricultural biotechnology has just "gone live" on the web. Known as GMObelus (a cryptic name with a simple explanation), it is edited by Andrew Apel -- who has been guest editor here in the past, and will be again, shortly.


Home | Politics | Business | Legal | Sci/Tech | Development | NGO Watch | Potpourri

OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2008-2017

This 2008 edition of the OECD/FAO Agricultural Outlook presents proejctions for production, consumption and prices to the year 2017 for the main agricultural commodities and biofuels for 39 countries and 19 regions. It also includes an overview chapter and a special chapter on high prices.

Now available from the Online Bookshop.
Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries
At a Glance 2008

This 2008 edition of OECD's annual reporting on estimates of support to agriculture includes a general evaluation, individual chapters on agricultural policy developments in OECD countries, and extensive statistical information on support broken down by type of support and commodity.

Now available from the Online Bookshop.
Biofuel Support Policies: An Economic Assessment

This report shows that the high level of policy support contributes little to reduced greenhouse-gas emissions and other policy objectives, while it adds to a range of factors that raise international prices for food commodities.

Now available from the Online OECD Bookshop.
Safety Assessment Considerations for Food and Feed Derived from Plants with Genetic Modifications that Modulate Endogenous Gene Expression and Pathways
Kier, L., Petrick, J. 2008. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 46: 2591-2605.

The next generation of biotechnology-derived crops may utilize regulatory proteins, such as transcription factors that modulate gene expression and/or endogenous plant pathways. In this review, we discuss the applicability of the current safety assessment paradigm to biotechnology-derived crops developed using modifications involving regulatory proteins. The growing literature describing the molecular biology underlying plant domestication and conventional breeding demonstrates the naturally occurring genetic variation found in plants, including significant variation in the classes, expression, and activity of regulatory proteins. Specific examples of plant modifications involving insertion or altered expression of regulatory proteins are discussed as illustrative case studies supporting the conclusion that the current comparative safety assessment process is appropriate for these types of biotechnology-developed crops.

The Shameful Destruction of a Crop Trial
The Economist, August 4, 2008

Almost ten years ago, a jury acquitted Lord Melchett, a British aristocrat who headed Greenpeace, of the willful destruction of a field of genetically modified (GM) crops in Norfolk. Though police caught Lord Melchett and 27 other activists in the field, the jury was unwilling to convict. Talk of "Frankenfood" and "genetic pollution" sowed popular fear of GM crops.

Ten years on and anti-GM activists are still at it: in June, unknown vandals destroyed a field of genetically modified potatoes near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. If they are ever caught, they may find themselves in for rougher treatment than their forerunners: though many Britons remain mistrustful of GM crops, the knee-jerk opposition that freed the lord has quieted for a number of reasons.

First, widespread public concern about the safety of these crops has greatly evaporated. Seven academies of science, and a number of independent enquiries and reviews have found no evidence of risks to human health. Second, farmers around the world recognise that GM crops offer many potential benefits, not least the prospect of greater profits. Most important, however, is that GM crops may offer considerable environmental benefits.

Greenpeace, however, remains firm in its opposition. It believes the ISAAA report is misleading and contends that GM crops contribute to the problem of world hunger by increasing farmers' dependence on the companies that supply the seeds. "GMO crops extend all the worst practices of industrial agriculture," contends Daniel Ocampo a Greenpeace campaigner. He adds that the ISAAA report "lacks scientific evidence to support its claims that GMO crops are safe and effective".

Oh, what an irony. Greenpeace wants more scientific evidence, while activists that may have been inspired by its crop-trashing efforts ten years ago are busy destroying trials that would provide it. Scientists at Leeds University had been hoping to test the effectiveness and environmental impact of a new type of potato that was resistant to cyst nematode worms. These worms cost farmers more than Ł60 billion ($119 billion), and can damage important crops such as bananas, which form up to 25% of the diet of many African countries.
Justice at Its Finest Over A Symbol of Faith
Bernard Dineen, Yorkshire Post,  August 5, 2008

It is time we got tough with the Green Luddites who disrupt genetically-modified crop trials. A trial into GM potatoes organised by Leeds University is the latest to be vandalised.

By any sensible standard, this is criminal damage. The people responsible should be jailed, and kept in jail until there is a guarantee of their future and behaviour. No doubt they feel superior to the yobs who cause trouble on the streets but in fact they are no better. These people are experts in producing scare stories that alarm local people unnecessarily, by creating hysteria about alleged contamination. Publishing full details of forthcoming trials in advance plays into their hands. Farmers taking part in the trials have been intimidated and threatened.

They even dress up in Frankenstein masks for the TV cameras and predict all kinds of disaster. Their invention of the term "Frankenstein foods" is a masterstroke of lying propaganda. Their sabotage has inflicted immeasurable damage on any attempt to investigate the facts about GM food. They would rather vandalise crops than let experiments give the answer about their safety. They are probably costing this country billions by their nihilism.
The Cult of the Amateur in Agriculture Threatens Food Security
Anthony Trewavas. Trends in Biotechnology, in press. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.06.00
(Institute of Molecular Plant Science, University of Edinburgh, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JH, Scotland;

From the 1950s onwards there has been increasing interference in agricultural policy by a few scientists who are marginal to agriculture and from a variety of unqualified groups. These groups and individuals have used fear and anxiety and have greatly exaggerated minor problems to persuade an unqualified public of supposed dangers in food and to try and change agricultural policy.  Fear and

o not lead to good policy, and the cult of the amateur that has developed could have serious repercussions on vital food security and future agriculture in developing countries; it must be soundly rejected.

The Cult of the Amateur, a book authored by Keen [19], is particularly applicable to agriculture. His concern is the blurring of the distinction between the qualified and informed professional and the uninformed and unqualified amateur that results from instant internet access. He * Chassy, B.M. et al. (2005) Crop biotechnology and the future of food: a scientific assessment. CAST Commentary QTA 2005-2 ( MCB294%20GMOs%20fictions,%20Facts%202-3-06.pdf) correctly observed that: 'We are facing the law of digital darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated' and 'In a world where everyone has a say, the words of a wise man count for no more than the mutterings of a fool' [19]. He states that societies create structures of authority that aim to provide reliable expert knowledge to a public otherwise unable to discriminate between the foolish, the fundamentalist, the vociferous or the wise.

A typical example of Keen's concern is the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD; index.cfm?page=plenary&ItemID=2713). The original intention of this report was to investigate how science and technology could reduce hunger and improve nutrition and sustainability in the developing and third world. Unwisely, the organizer failed to limit contributors to those who could provide a balanced scientific input and instead included a large number with marginal agricultural science connections, including environmentalists (reference [20] outlines environmentalist attitude to scientific knowledge). The title, IAASTD, is now a misnomer; the science unsurprisingly is marginalized and an evident need for scientific research omitted.

The desire of many individuals who are marginal to agricultural science to impose their own political views (under the guise of science and technology) on third world countries in this flawed IAASTD report smacks strongly of the discredited social engineering of the last century.


It is essential that all scientists assert the primacy of properly established and critically assessed scientific knowledge not only in the formulation of agricultural policy but in all areas of human activity. If knowledge is not used, only catastrophe will follow ignorance.

One of the major concerns with the use of insecticidal protein-expressing transgenic crops is their possible effects on target organisms. Scientists from the Aachen University and University of Göttingen in Germany investigated the effect of the Bt-corn line Mon88017 on plant bugs, specifically the rice leaf bug (Trigonotylus caelestialium), as non-target organisms. The Cry3Bb1-expressing Bt-corn variety is resistant to the western corn rootworm, one of the most devastating crop pests in Europe.

Results of ELISA tests indicated that rice leaf bugs in Bt-corn plots ingested Cry3Bb1 at all stages of their life. Nymphs contained on average 8 ng (nanograms) Cry3Bb1. Adult insects, on the other hand, showed varying amounts of Cry3Bb1, ranging from a few to over 60 ng. Despite this exposure there were no indications of a negative impact of the Bt-corn and the potential stressor Cry3Bb1 on the rice leaf bug. The field densities of the rice leaf bug were always similar in MON88017, the near-isogenic line and conventional maize varieties.

The paper published by Transgenic Research is available at Non subscribers can read the abstract at
Future of GM Crops
Robert Wager, Korea Times, August 1, 2008

The first commercial planting of a genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GM) crop was in 1995 in North America. Since then, these products of modern agricultural biotechnology have spread throughout the world. Over 12 million, mostly resource poor, farmers used genetically engineered seeds last year. This represents an increase of 12 percent over 2006.

Fungi contamination of crops is a global problem and some species of fungi produce powerful mycotoxins. Fumonisin B is one such toxin that can contaminate corn products. This potent toxin blocks folic acid metabolism and therefore represents a real health threat to fetal development in livestock and people. Italian researchers, sponsored by the University of Milan, found Bt-corn varieties had much lower levels of this nasty toxin compared to identical non-GE corn varieties. The same study also found a 28-43 percent yield increase for the genetically engineered corn varieties. Now researchers are developing corn varieties (conventional and GE) with reduced aflatoxin. This particular fungal toxin can be deadly, and was responsible for over 100 deaths in Kenya alone in 2007.

Wheat farmers around the globe are carefully watching the spread of a resistant variety of fungus called Ug 99. Agricultural scientists are worried that this particular fungus could have devastating effects on global wheat production. Conventional farmers use synthetic fungicides while organic agriculture use toxic copper compounds to reduce fungal damage of their crops. Therefore, all farmers should be interested in fungal resistant varieties being developed.

Approximately 30 percent of all food is destroyed by bacterial or fungal contamination before it can be consumed. Therefore, this represents an area with potentially huge yield increases without an increase in acreage under the plough. With this goal in mind, several countries have on-going field trials of genetically engineered fungal resistance in wheat, potatoes, strawberries, bananas, papaya, and rice crops to name but a few. The world's population is predicted to reach 8-10 billion in the next few decades. The demand to produce more food will put tremendous pressure on the environment. Already millions of acres of arable land are lost each year to soil loss and degradation.

If we want to save the remaining wilderness from the plough, agricultural science must find better ways to produce more food on less land. The biggest change will come in the less developed world. China alone has carried out over 2000 field trials on different GE crops and India and Brazil are not far behind. There is little doubt this technology will become very important in the near future.

There is no single type of agriculture that can be used to feed the world. Genetically modified crops are not a panacea. However, the world simply does not have the luxury of disregarding any type of agriculture for ideological reasons. We will need the best of every form of agriculture to help feed the world. Sustainability is essential.

Decades of research and twelve years of commercial growth show genetically engineered crops have significant yield increases, with reduced environmental impact.

The next wave of innovation will see more varieties of disease resistant crops that require little or no pesticide inputs. The world can expect to benefit from genetically engineered crops that produce cheaper pharmaceuticals. The demand for biofuels will be met using non-food crops.

Drought and salt tolerant varieties will help maintain yields in degraded environments. This, in turn, will take the pressure of the remaining wilderness.

And finally, the world's poor will benefit from nutritionally enhanced staple crops like golden rice and cassava. The future looks bright with genetically engineered crops playing a significant role in global agriculture.

Robert Wager is a professor at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached at
A report on "Agriculture Ecosystem: Facts and Trends"

published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and  the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) both Switzerland-based organizations, is available at:

Stalin's War on Genetic Science
Jan Witkowski, Nature 454, 577-579 (July 31, 2008)

Review of book: "The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century by Peter Pringle Simon and Schuster: 2008. 384 pp. $26"

It is not surprising, given the parlous state of Russia in the years following the Revolution, that its political system put ideology and practical outcomes above all else, including scientific fact. This was most evident in agriculture, where it was imperative to produce more food by whatever means. The consequences were tragic for the Russian people and for Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov, Russia's greatest geneticist. Vavilov fell foul of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko who, through political manipulation and intrigue, came to dominate Soviet genetics.Peter Pringle's compelling book, The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, tells the story of the Lysenko affair with verve and pace. Pringle makes it clear how Vavilov's patriotism, dedication to science and determination to be open-minded led to his downfall and death.


Biotechnology: Science and Advance in the Black Sea Subregion
Is a konference organised by Black Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA) in Albena (Bulgaria) from September 27 to 29. Efore the Konference the BSBA workshop on plnar genomics will bw held in the frame of Plant GEM 7 ( on Thursday, September 25.
10th International Symposium on the Biosafety of GMOs

ISBGMO is the unique biennial event to showcase environmental biosafety research. It brings together academic researchers, policy makers, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry scientists from all parts of the globe to foster productive dialogue and multidisciplinary approaches on environmental biosafety.

The 10th ISBGMO, which will be held 16/11 -21/11 at Wellington, New Zealand, includes eight plenary sessions, four evening workshops, and poster sessions. The Plenary Sessions cover Biosafety experience and results; Introgression, naturalisation, and invasion ; Abiotic and biotic stress tolerance; GM animals; Impacts on soil ecosystems; Risk assessment - state of the art; Biocontainment methods; and Post market environmental monitoring. The recently updated programme is posted on the conference website.

Note that the early bird registration deadline for the 10th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO) is Friday 15 August 2008.

For more information on the symposium; consult
European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology.

EFB, is pleased to announce a top speaker line up at this year’s which is to take place this 15-17 September in Brussels, Belgium.

We are pleased to announce that Dr David Morris, Director of the Institute for Local Self Reliance will give the keynote address on the emerging carbohydrate economy. Other high level speakers include: Nick Fanandakis, Group Vice President, DuPont; Catia Bastioli, CEO, Novamont; Stephan Singer, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy Unit, WWF; and Nicholas Turner, Director of CoEBio3 UK.

For a complete list of speakers and an overview of the final programme, please visit
Conference "Science to Market"

October 7 – 8, 2008 Convention Center, Hannover, Germany. The Workshop opens on Tuesday, October 7, 2008, at 08:30 and it closes on Wednesday, October 8, 2008, at 15:00.


The Association of Applied Plant Biologists will be conducting a conference "Effects of Climate Change on Plants: Implications for Agriculture" on 12-13 November 2008 at the Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, United Kingdom. The aim of this conference is to provide a forum to discuss how global environmental change is likely to affect the many facets of crop production and protection.

For further details visit h
The Tech Transfer Summit™
will be held in Paris, France on 6 - 7 October 2008 at EuroBiO 2008 at the Porte Maillot Palais des Congr?s.
31 August - 4 September 2008 Biocat 2008: International Congress on Biocatalysis Hamburg, Germany
3-6 September 2008 4th European Bioremediation Conference Chania - Crete - Greece
7-10 September 2008 7th European Symposium on Biochemical Engineering Science Faro, Portugal
15-17 September 2008 EuropaBio's first European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology Brussels, Belgium
14-19 September 2008 Bioprocess Engineering Course Island of Brac, Croatia
21 - 25 September 2008 The Third International Meeting on Environmental Biotechnology and Engineering Palma de Mallorca, Spain
23-25 September 2008 European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production (erscp2008) Berlin, Germany
24-28 September 2008 5th EFB Meeting on Recombinant Protein Production Sardinia, Italy
29 September - 01 October 2008 Biolatina 2008 Sao Paulo, Brazil
29 September - 01 October 2008 International Symposium on Preparative and Industrial Chromatography & Allied Techniques SPICA 2008 Zurich, Switzerland

Europe - EU

EFSA calls on scientific experts

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which is the European Union's scientific risk assessment body on food and feed safety, nutrition, animal welfare and plant protection and health is launching a database for Europe's leading scientific experts to assist it in its work. Scientists with relevant expertise are invited to apply. EFSA welcomes applications from experts in all fields of its remit. All candidates who submit a complete application and meet the validity and eligibility criteria will be included in the database. EFSA will inform each applicant whether or not they have been included and, if not, the criteria that were not met.

From this "pool" of experts EFSA will select future working group members and other ad-hoc scientists who will support the work of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels. The expert database will also be available to all EU Member States who may use it to select experts for their own scientific activities. In accordance with existing EFSA rules, those experts selected from the database will be invited for a certain scientific activity. When participating in the work, they will receive travel and subsistence expenses and an indemnity for their contribution to EFSA's work.

EFB supports science-based evaluations and decision making. EFSA's open invitation provides an opportunity for scientific experts wishing to contribute to this process.

To find out more, visit
GM can offer benefits and Europe should begin to take advantage of them says EP member Neil Parish

“…drought-resistant GM varieties could be very useful in the EU as parts of Southern Europe are drying up. We may very soon have GM varieties that can produce their own nitrogen, negating the need for fertilisers.  GM can, therefore, offer us some benefits and Europe has to start taking responsibility for producing more food. So long as we ensure that those who want to remain organic can do so, I believe that we should start the debate.”


The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR) has released an opinion for assessing the impact of pesticides on birds and mammals.

The PPR Panel evaluated the impact of pesticides with a large range of scenarios including different crops and different types of pesticide uses (e.g. granules, seed treatment, sprays). In most cases, the assessment results in a toxicity-exposure-ratio (TER) as a measure of risk. In the case of acute risks to birds from sprayed pesticides, however, the PPR Panel offered an alternative approach based on the number of lethal doses applied per square meter (LD50/m?).

EFSA's Opinion Paper can be downloaded at


Anti-Biotech "Crop Crushing" Is The New Book-Burning

Professor Howard Atkinson, of the University of Leeds, whose trial into genetically modified potatoes was vandalised in June, accused campaigners of being closed-minded zealots. He told the BBC's Farming Today programme: "I have great difficulty in seeing what the difference is between burning university books in 1933 and now trying to prevent new information finding its way into scientific journals to underpin policy development"

Prosecutor seeks eight years in prison for Bové
Radio France International, Aug. 28, 2008

Former presidential candidate José Bové could face eight years in prison and four years probation.In a new court case involving the high-profile activist, he and eleven other ecological campaigners face charges relating to a 2006 attempt to destroy genetically-modified corn.

Marc Giblet, the Belgian farmer whose grain silos were targeted, also faces ten months in prison if he is found guilty of firing a gunshot in the direction of the activists during the incident. "It's time for José Bové to put an end to his compulsive acts that are the result of a poorly-managed Oedipus complex," public prosecutor Jerome Bourrier declared referring to Bové's father, a former agricultural researcher.
The Prince is entitled to his views - but not his ignorance
It's shocking to hear this millionaire Gloucestershire farmer denounce the 'Green Revolution' in India
Dominic Lawson, The Independent (UK), Aug. 15, 2000

There are any numbers of reasons why someone such as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales should be passionately opposed to genetically modified crops. For a start, his own position - and future one as head of state - is based entirely on genetic purity (formerly known as "royal blood").

One characteristic he might have inherited from his grandfather, King George VI, is a propensity for sudden, almost incoherent, rage. This week, that excellent journalist Jeff Randall gently suggested to the heir to the throne that the future of farming might be with industrial-scale production, rather than the sort of methods he practises. "What?" exploded the Prince. "All run by gigantic corporations? That would be the absolute destruction of everything!" Randall went on to report that "bouncing in his chair", the Prince set out a nightmarish vision in which millions of small farmers "are driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness".

The Prince, predictably, continued his rant by attacking GM technology - although Randall had never raised it - which he said was: "Guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time. Snakes, some of them thousands of miles long, will roam the countryside." Well, I made that last sentence up, but you get the gist: the world as we know it will come to an end if wicked big business is allowed to introduce GM crops on an industrial scale. The main empirical problem for this argument is that GM crops have already been grown for more than a decade across the globe, providing trillions of meals, with no observable malign consequences for humanity or the environment. Quite the reverse, in fact: many types of GM crops have been designed to produce high yield with minimal soil tillage; others require much lower use of pesticide than conventional crops, thus saving vast amounts in agricultural fuel use.
Is Charles' anti-GM outburst linked to India business plans?
Yahoo! India, Aug. 14, 2008

London - Prince Charles, who was Thursday slammed by scientists for an outburst against genetically modified (GM) food and the Indian Green Revolution, has major plans to market his organic food products in India. Two months ago, the chief executive of the Prince's Duchy Originals line of organic products announced plans to launch the brand in India and the US as part of a five-year strategy to quadruple annual turnover from 50 million pounds to 200 million pounds ($93-373 million). Andrew Baker said the company hoped to establish a presence in India by the end of the year. 'We've also taken steps to establish a Duchy presence in India linked to the Prince's Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, established to help the poorer farmers of the Punjab,' Baker said.

Alison Smith, professor of Plant Biochemistry at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, Britain's leading plant science institute, criticised what she called the Prince's 'ill-informed, one-sided and generally negative' remarks. 'He seems to be ranting about GM crops, urbanisation, globalisation and even hybrid plants. He is inflating fears instead of contributing to reasoned debate.'
GM crops tested rigorously contrary to prince's claims
The Ottawa Citizen (letter), Aug. 16, 2008

Re: GM crops 'absolute disaster:' Charles, Aug. 13.

I was surprised to read Prince Charles' attack on biotechnology to improve crops through genetic-modification (GM). As Canada's national biotechnology association, our members are mostly small and medium-sized enterprises who are global leaders in crop technologies. Contrary to the Prince's assertion, GM crops are rigorously tested, reduce pesticide use, increase yields, enhance food security, support small farmers, and are environmentally-friendly. GM crops are also a part of Canada's contribution to the world's economy and food prosperity. GM crops are not an experiment: GM crops undergo seven to 10 years of rigorous testing and approvals before being released into the market. Testing includes environmental and safety assessments by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to assess the plants' impact on humans, the environment, on biodiversity, and on other organisms. GM technologies reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. Crops that do not need to be sprayed with toxins, or are weather-resistant need fewer natural resources to sustain their growth.

GM crops significantly benefit small farmers, especially in the developing world. In 2007, 10 million of the 12 million farmers growing biotech corps were small subsistence farmers -- not large corporations. To further enhance food nutrition and security, Canadian companies are creating drought-resistant crops to grow in African arid climates. Informed debate on new technologies is critical in any society. We need to not lose sight of Canada's proven success in using biotechnology for crops.

Peter Brenders, Ottawa President and CEO, BIOTECanada
A severe blow to scientific research into the sustainable production of bioethanol
VIB field trial request refused; Flanders Institute For Biotechnology (VIB) May 27, 2008

Ghent, Belgium - VIB has responded in disbelief to the rejection by the federal government of its request to carry out a field trial with genetically modified poplars. The government has thus disregarded the authoritative judgement of the Biosafety Advisory Council. According to VIB there is no reason why the request should be refused. It is a severe blow to scientific research in general and the development of biotechnology in Belgium in particular. VIB is investigating the possibility of appealing against the decision.


Third African Green Revolution Conference in Oslo
Associated Press via Forbes, Aug. 28, 2008

Annan, board chairman of the Alliance of a Green Revolution in Africa, said that requires a joint effort by Africa's subsistence farmers, government, private business, and scientists. He said there are 200 million Africans who go hungry each day, while simple measures, such as fertilizers, better seeds and improved water management, could quadruple their agricultural output from existing farmland.

Monty Patrick Jones, who leads the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, told The Associated Press that, "With proper planning, Africa can produce food for itself and for the world. Africa has more agricultural land than most places." Florence Wambugu, founder and head of Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, said "Africa has the greatest opportunity in the current (food) crisis because we are a farming continent. An African green revolution is very important to stabilizing the whole food supply system."
Kenya to import Genetically Modified Foods, says minister
Agence de Presse Africaine, Aug. 17, 2008

Nairobi (Kenya) - Kenya will import Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) to ease food shortage facing the country, agriculture minister William Ruto, said here at the weekend. Addressing journalists in Nairobi, Ruto slammed civil society groups in the country for condemning the government decision to import GMOs. "There is no scientific backing that consumption of GMO's are harmful to the health of humans," he said.

Insecticid use on vegetables in Ghana

By Daniela Horna (University Ghana), José Falck-Zepeda (International Food Policy Research Institute) and Samuel E. Timpo (Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research
Institute, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission). IFPRI Discussion Paper 00785, August 2008
IFPRI – Internaional Food policy Research Institute – Supported by CGIAR)

Tomato, cabbage, and garden egg (African eggplant, or Solanum aethiopicum) are important crops for small-scale farmers and migrants in the rural and peri-urban areas of Ghana. Genetic modification has the potential to alleviate poverty through combating yield losses from pests and diseases in these crops, while reducing health risks from application of hazardous chemicals. This ex ante study uses farm survey data to gauge the potential for adoption of genetically modified (GM) varieties, estimate the potential impact of adoption on farm profits, and highlight economic differences among the three crops.

Farmers’ expenditures on insecticides are below the economic optimum in all three crops, and the estimated function for damage abatement shows that insecticide amounts are significant determinants of cabbage yields only. Nonetheless, yield losses from pests and disease affect insecticide use. A stochastic budget analysis also indicates a higher rate of return to vegetable production with the use of resistant seeds relative to the status quo, even considering the technology transfer fee for GM seed. Non–insecticide users could accrue higher marginal benefits than current insecticide users. Comparing among vegetable crops with distinct economic characteristics provides a wider perspective on the potential impact of GM technology. Until now, GM eggplant is the only vegetable crop that has been analyzed in the peer-reviewed, applied economics literature. This is the first analysis that includes African eggplant


Construction of a modern cassava transformation laboratory has started at Uganda's Namulonge Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) with funding from the US Agency for International Development and administered by the Association of Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), and the Danforth Plant Science Center at St. Louis, USA. The new lab will be used to develop two new cassava varieties named Ebwan Aterac and Aladu by Ugandan scientists led by Dr. Yona Baguma, an agricultural scientist and molecular biologist with NaCRRI. He estimates that research, development, trials and commercial release of the disease resistant varieties will take a minimum of five years. Cassava Mosaic Virus (CMV) and Brown Streak Virus (BSV) are the most important constraints to cassava production in the region.

For more information contact Daniel Otunge ( of ISAAA AfriCenter

Discussion on cassava

Project: Cassava, the primary source of nutrition for 800 million people worldwide, is receiving attention from a project seeking to boost its nutritional value.

The BioCassava Plus project, supported by US$12.1 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves researchers from Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

The scientists have been seeking to fortify a single 500 gram adult portion of cassava with essential nutrients, including vitamins A and E, iron and zinc.

Other goals include making the crop more disease-resistant, extending its shelf-life from one day to two weeks and reducing cyanide toxicity.

The scientists now claim to have "demonstrated proof of practice for all the target objectives in three years" since their 2005 start date.

The transgenic cassava plants have undergone a stringent biosafety approval process in the United States, and field trials are currently being carried out at a US Department of Agriculture site in Puerto Rico.
Next on the agenda are field trials in Kenya and Nigeria in 2009, before researchers attempt to combine the traits into a single plant.

Oponent: Nagib Nassar ( Brazil ) 19 August 2008

Cassava hybrids with solid resistant to mosaic have been produced in the decades 1980s and planted now in the whole west and east Africa (Hahn,1980). It is estimated that these resistant to mosaic cultivars cover now more than 4 million hectars in Africa. The rich in protein and essencial amino acids ,rich in lutein , Beta carotene , lycopene, high iron and zinc content are planted now in several Brazilian states (Nassar, 2007, Nassar and Souza, 2007, Nassar and Dorea, 1982, Nassar et al. 2007,. See this link too .

These hybrids and cultivars were obtained by a very small support of the Brazilian National council-CNPq to the equipe of the University of Brasilia did´nt ultrapass some tens of thousands of dollars. It was not needed the referred 12 millions of dollars at all because of a simple reason: The biodiversity of cassava possesses all these genes. They could be transferred by simple hybridization from the wild to the cultigen. The genetic variability offers too FITNESS and high ADAPTAION that cannot be reached by molecular transformation. An example on lack to fitness and adaptation of this modified cassava: The molecular transformed cultivar said to be resistant to mosaic which costed a multinational company more than 10 million dollars was abandoned totally by farmers of West africa. Now it is not cultivated at all anywhere or any place!!!

Africa - Food Security
Swazi Observer, August 6, 2008. Full piece at§ion=Business

One of the most critical problems facing Africa and the world today is food security. Infrastructure including transportation -The food crisis in Africa is clearly multidimensional in its causes and for its solutions.

Lack of infrastructure is at the very root of the food problem. Transportation costs have so dramatically raised the price of fertilizer - sometimes increasing it as much as 4 to 6 times - for so many African farmers causing them to use far less than they should - at less than 10 kilos per hectare per average compared, for example, to India at over 100 kilos per hectare, China at circa 200 kilos per hectare (the average for Asia is about 150 kilos per hectare) and as high as 400 or more kilos per hectare in parts of Europe.

Like it or not, the most promising work in developing more drought resistant crops is using transgenics - i.e. genetically modified crops. No biotechnology scientist claims that biotechnology is the only way to proceed or that it should get all of the funding but there is broad agreement in the scientific community - far more scientific consensus on biotechnology than on global warming - that bioengineering plants will be an essential component of any plant breeding strategy. Bioengineering is also producing crops with larger yields that require less pesticide use, food crops that are more nutritious, and crops that allow for no tillage agriculture which saves on fuel, soil loss, biodiversity, and water loss etc. - factors important for advances in African agriculture. Biotechnology is also needed to address the emergence of new fungal (or bacterial or viral or pest) threats to agriculture such as Ug99 for wheat, striga for maize and black sigatoka for bananas.

Middle East

GMO regulation.

Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC - Saudi Arabia was a prime mover in setting up the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981. Other members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) are drafting rules to govern foods containing GM ingredients, marking the first collective attempt to regulate such foods. The GCC delegates have been given a month to come up with proposals for rules and general standards and will discuss them in detail over the next year. The move is part of a wider effort to set standards across the GCC and, in the United Arab Emirates, government bodies such as Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) will be responsible for enforcing the rules. The states are expected to endorse the rules by late 2009, including one that would require supermarkets and grocery shops to label any foods containing GM ingredients.

"There are no regulations in the Emirates," said Dr Mariam al Yousuf, the executive director of the policy and regulation sector at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA). "There's a controversy about GM food and interest at the national level. There are some municipal resolutions but they are not fully implemented." She said the subcommittee's main point of reference for writing the rules was a food code, the Codex Alimentarius, created by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation in 1963 to set food safety standards for international trade.

Mustafa Arakkal, the manager of the Millennium supermarket, said he thought the new rules were a fine idea - but would not make any difference to his customers. "People should be informed about the products," he said. "But people don't care. They won't look at the labels - they only want to buy their tomato sauce or whatever."



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the exemption of the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Vip3Aa proteins from the tolerance requirement for transgenic protein residues. Under the regulation, there will be no more need to establish a maximum permissible level of the BT protein when used as a plant incorporated protectant in corn and cotton. Based on rigorous scientific tests, EPA concluded that the Bt proteins are unlikely to endanger human and animal health or the environment.

The regulation is effective August 6, 2008. Objections and requests for hearings must be received on or before October 6, 2008. For more information, read


The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has earmarked $30 M for plant biotech research and development under its proposed agriculture development programs. The amount will be allocated for the US Agency for International Development "to improve food security and income generation, particularly in Africa and Asia".

The details of the Fiscal Year 2009 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation is available at,_Foreign_Operations_Report.pdf?CFID=4488692&CFTOKEN=23910981


Philippines: GM Crops Provide Key to Greening Barren Lands
Rudy A. Fernandez, The Philippine Star, July 27, 2008

Once lahar-mantled, now lush greenfields. Barren hills once upon a recent time, now lush corn farms. Open fields that used to reek of the acrid smell of toxic pesticides, now wafted by fresh, healthful air. The friendly insects are back too, helping Mr. Farmer control the insects that have been attacking his cornfields. These are some of the magical transformations in many areas in the countryside, thanks to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn. Bt is a bacterium that naturally occurs in soil. Through biotechnology or genetic engineering, a specific Bt gene has been inserted in the corn variety. Bt corn produces its natural pesticide against the Asian corn borer. One of the most destructive pests attacking corn in Asia, including the Philippines.

About 95 percent of the barangay's farmers are now planting biotech corn, Anao outstanding farmer Carlos Guevarra recently told Sonny Tababa, coordinator of the Los Ba?os-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC). As of 2007, about 300,000 hectares had been planted to transgenic corn in the Philippines, he reported at a recent media forum in Los Ba?os jointly sponsored by ISAAA, SEARCA-BIC, US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

Vietnam to Allow Genetically Modified Crops to Reduce Imports
Bloomberg, August 3, 2008

Development of GM crops may reduce the nation's dependence on imports, helping to narrow the trade deficit and calm concerns about economic stability. Increases in food prices have spurred inflation of 27 percent, the fastest since at least 1992. "Vietnam plans to allow massive production of GM crops after 2010,"Pham Van Toan, Hanoi-based head of the general office at the agriculture ministry's Science and Technology Department, said. The country approved in 2005 the program to cut agricultural imports, he said.


India harmonizes regulations
K S Jayaraman, Nature Biotechnology 26, 845 (August, 2008)

India will create a single autonomous body for biosafety clearance of genetically modified (GM) products, a move that has been welcomed by the biotech industry. Come September, the National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA) will replace the existing committees currently under different ministries. Advising the NBRA will be a panel of delegates from relevant ministries and another 20-member council representing the scientific community, private sector, nongovernmental and farmer organizations. The NBRA will also set up a mechanism for dispute settlement and Kapur says companies may not have to spend huge amounts of money fighting litigations filed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Maharaj Kishan Bhan, secretary to the department of biotechnology, points out that.


Farmers angry with unsubstantiated release of GM crop sites
Isobel Drake, Australian Food News, Aug. 12, 2008

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has labelled moves by anti-GM group Gene Ethics, to place a list of names and property locations of farmers supposedly growing GM Canola on their website, as a disgrace. The map includes the property location of Victorian Premier John Brumby. VFF President, Simon Ramsay said that the release of unconfirmed maps of supposed GM Canola sites with the names of property owners was appalling. "This is a disgraceful and unsubstantiated witch hunt and shows how few ethics, Gene Ethics really have," Mr Ramsay said. "Farmers have as much right to privacy as any other citizen, and Bob Phelps and his gang of activist thugs have no excuse for breaching it."

News in Science and Patents

Science Supersizes Crops
Kara Rowland, Washington Times 18th July 2008

A new "supercorn" with eight genetic modifications that make it even more highly resistant to insects and weed killers than earlier versions is just one of the agricultural developments Americans will see over the next several years as scientific advances enable technicians to customize crop plants with stacks of genes, biotechnology expert Clive James said. Mr. James stressed the need for genetically modified crops to help farmers grow more food on fewer acres as the world is running out of land and water while the population is expected to climb to 9 billion by 2015.


A study conducted by researchers from the Mississippi State University and Ohio State University revealed that the chromatin, the packaged form of the DNA, plays an essential role in controlling rice endosperm sizes and grain quality. The findings may allow scientists to improve the nutritional value of rice. The endosperm portion of the grain is an important component in determining the nutrient content for most cereal crops as it provides growing plant nutrition, such as starch, oils and protein.

For more information, read

Tracking A Crop Disease Could Save Millions Of Lives
Medical News Today, Aug. 19, 2008

Scientists have discovered why one of the world's most important agricultural diseases emerged, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of General Virology. Maize streak virus (MSV) causes the main virus disease of Africa's most important food crop. By comparing the genome of the virus to those of its less harmful relatives, scientists have discovered how and why MSV became a serious pest and spread so rapidly across Africa.

"We found that the maize adapted virus infects a greater variety of grasses than any of the other MSV strains," said Dr Martin. "The virus appears to be spreading around Africa faster than the other strains too. When we compared the genomes of 11 different strains of MSV, we discovered that lots of genes had been exchanged between the strains in a process called recombination. We also found that every MSV that causes severe disease in maize has descended from an ancestral virus that was the recombinant offspring of two relatively harmless wild grass infecting viruses. This chance recombination event could be the reason MSV has become such a serious problem." All available information suggests that over 100 years ago, two grass adapted MSVs recombined to produce a new "wide-host range" strain that could infect a greater variety of other plants than its parents. This meant the virus could survive the winters in wild grasses more effectively than its relatives - something that potentially increased the speed at which it spread across Africa. The ability of this recombinant strain to infect many different host species may have also enabled it to rapidly adapt to maize - a process that today has led to its emergence as an economically important crop disease.

Added: "Maize streak virus-resistant transgenic maize: a first for Africa", Dionne N. Shepherd and Tichaona  Mangwende, et. al., Plant Biotechnology Journal (Vol. 5 No. 6, pp. 759 - 767), published online Aug. 15, 2007, "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first maize to be developed with transgenic MSV resistance and the first all-African-produced genetically modified crop plant."


The use of monoclonal antibodies is a promising treatment approach for a number of cancer types.  This approach involves the development of specific antibodies directed against antigens present in the surface of tumor cells. Plants are potentially the most economical system available for the large-scale production of monoclonal antibodies. Plant cells are inexpensive to grow and maintain. In addition, plants can carry out many of the posttranslational modifications that occur in human cells.

A group of scientists from Chonbuk University in Korea developed a method for large-scale production of anti-TAG 72 humanized antibody fragments using a transgenic rice cell suspension culture system. Tumor associated glycoprotein 72 (TAG 72) is expressed in the majority of human adenocarcinomas occurring within the colon, ovary, pancreas, breast, and lung. High antibody expression, equivalent to 30 mg/l or about 2% of the total secreted protein, was achieved using the system. The recombinant antibody was found to bind specifically to human colon adenocarcinoma cells with TAG 72, and this binding occurred at the same extent as was seen with animal-derived antibody.

Read the paper published by Plant Molecular Biology at or


Plant secondary metabolites are the source of many pharmaceuticals, flavorings and aromas. These compounds are produced in response to pathogen attack and environmental stress. Secondary metabolites, however, are normally produced by plants in small amounts. A group of scientists from University of Calcutta in India developed transgenic Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera) and wild morning glory (Convolvulus sepium) accumulating increased secondary metabolites such as calystegines and certain flavonoids. The medicinal plants were engineered to express a gene encoding cryptogein, a fungal elicitor protein. Chemical inducers of the pathogen defense response, such as jasmonic acid, salicylate and killed fungi, were also used to increase metabolite and biomass production in transformed cell cultures. Natural transformation with genes coding for microbial elicitors could be a novel approach in developing pathogen resistant plants.

The complete paper is available at


SemBioSys Genetics Inc. recently announced that it has submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for safflower-produced recombinant human insulin to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An IND is necessary for a new drug's early preclinical development. "All of our studies to date confirm that our safflower-produced insulin is equivalent to pharmaceutical-grade human insulin. We met our internal schedule to submit the IND and we are on track to begin human clinical trials in the fourth quarter of 2008 as planned," said Andrew Baum, president and chief executive officer of SemBioSys.

The company also intends to submit a Clinical Trial Application (CTA) to the appropriate European authorities later this quarter. Assuming approval of the CTA, SemBioSys plans to conduct a Phase I/II trial in the UK.

To read more, visit


Scientists from the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a method to rapidly detect the genetic fingerprints of fungal pathogens. The assay can detect ten Pythium and seven Rhizoctonia species, pathogens that cost wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest $50 to $70 million annually in yield losses. The ARS scientists are now exploring the assays' commercial potential and eventual use in gathering fungal data for a risk-management system.

For more information, read


Researchers from New Zealand-based companies HortResearch and Genesis Research and Development Corporation Limited announced that they would complete the public release of the world's most extensive collection of kiwi fruit DNA sequences. The genetic data will allow fruit breeders develop new kiwi varieties with improved diseases resistance and increased health properties.

For more information, read the media release at or the paper published by BMC Genomics at

MSU's discovery of plant protein holds promise for biofuel production
Michigan State University (press release), Aug. 15, 2008

EAST LANSING, Mich.  -  Scientists at Michigan State University have identified a new protein necessary for chloroplast development. The discovery could ultimately lead to plant varieties tailored specifically for biofuel production.


Publication Date: 01.07.2008
Applicant: Novozymes, Inc. (Davis, CA)
Publication Number: 7,393,664
Published by: United States Patent Office

Abstract: The invention relates to methods for producing a polypeptide, comprising: (a) cultivating a fungal host cell in a medium conducive for the production of the polypeptide, wherein the fungal host cell comprises a nucleic acid construct comprising a first nucleotide sequence encoding a signal peptide operably linked to a second nucleotide sequence encoding the polypeptide, wherein the first nucleotide sequence is foreign to the second nucleotide sequence and the 3' end of the first nucleotide sequence is immediately upstream of the initiator codon of the second nucleotide sequence.


Publication Date: 01.07.2008
Applicant: Novozymes, Inc. (Davis, CA)
Publication Number: 7,393,664
Published by: United States Patent Office

Abstract: The invention relates to methods for producing a polypeptide, comprising: (a) cultivating a fungal host cell in a medium conducive for the production of the polypeptide, wherein the fungal host cell comprises a nucleic acid construct comprising a first nucleotide sequence encoding a signal peptide operably linked to a second nucleotide sequence encoding the polypeptide, wherein the first nucleotide sequence is foreign to the second nucleotide sequence and the 3' end of the first nucleotide sequence is immediately upstream of the initiator codon of the second nucleotide sequence.


Publication Date: 06.08.2008
Patent Number: EP1953243 (A2)
Published by: European Patent Office

Abstract: The invention is based on the discovery of polynucleotides that represent genes that are differentially expressed in colon cancer, e.g., adenomatous polyp, colorectal carcinoma, high metastatic potential colon tumor and metastatic colon cancer.

'Oil from algae' promises climate friendly fuel: A company in San Diego claims to have developed a sustainable version of oil it calls "green crude". Sapphire Energy uses single-celled organisms such as algae to produce a chemical mixture from which it is possible to extract fuels. When it is burned, the fuel only releases into the air the carbon dioxide absorbed by the algae during its growth, making the whole process carbon neutral. (Source: The Guardian)
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