News in September 2009
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Green Revolution Hero Norman Borlaug dies at 95
Greg Flakus  Austin, Texas, 13 September 2009

American agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug died at his home in Dallas, Texas Saturday at the age of 95.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work to stop world hunger.  Known around the world as the father of the Green Revolution, his effort to increase crop yields has been credited with saving millions of people from starvation.  To his friends, family and colleagues, Norman Borlaug was a marvel, continuing to work on agricultural projects and academic pursuits as he reached the age of 95.  He resided in Dallas, but taught classes during the fall semester at Texas A and M University in College Station, where an institute was established in his name.

At his 95th birthday party in Dallas last March, Borlaug spoke to VOA about the need to continue expanding food production to meet the needs of a growing world population. "We are adding 84-million people to the population every year.  We have a big job on our hands," he said.Borlaug expressed concern about a new variety of wheat stem rust attacking wheat plants in Africa and advocated greater coordination of researchers around the world to stop its spread.
World Will Need 70 Percent More Food in 2050: FAO
AFP, Sept 24, 2009

ROME - World food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050, to nourish a human population then likely to be 9.1 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation forecast Wednesday.

"FAO is cautiously optimistic about the world's potential to feed itself by 2050," said FAO Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem. However, he stressed that feeding everyone in the world by then "will not be automatic and several significant challenges have to be met." The agency is preparing for a high-level expert forum in Rome on October 12-13 on "How to Feed the World in 2050" and plans to gather 300 specialists from academic, non-governmental and private sector institutions.

This forum will pave the way for a World Summit on Food Security in Rome on November 16-18. The world population is expected to grow from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050, according to the latest UN forecast.

"Nearly all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow the fastest (up 108 percent, 910 million people), and East and South East Asia's the slowest (up 11 percent, 228 million). "Around 70 percent of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050, up from 49 percent today," the document said.

The demand for food is expected to grow as a result of rising incomes as well as population growth, the discussion paper added. Cereal production will have to increase by almost a billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and meat production will have to grow by more than 200 million tonnes to reach a total of 470 million tonnes in 2050.

The FAO estimated that the "production of biofuels could also increase the demand for agricultural commodities, depending on energy prices and government policies." More land will be needed for crops "despite the fact that 90 percent of the growth in crop production is projected to come from higher yields and increased cropping intensity."

The FAO estimated that "arable land will have to expand by around 120 million hectares in developing countries," mainly in Africa and Latin America, while "arable land in use in developed countries is expected to decline by some 50 million hectares, although this could be changed by the demand for biofuels."

Globally, there is still enough land to feed the future world population, but much of the potential land is suitable for growing only a few crops, and the FAO warned of other difficulties, such as chemical and physical constraints, endemic diseases and a lack of infrastructure. Overcoming such problems will require "significant investments," the FAO said, adding that some countries in the Near East, north Africa and South Asia "have already reached or are about to reach the limits of land available."

The FAO expects water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture to grow by almost 11 percent by 2050. The world has enough fresh water resources, but "they are very unevenly distributed and water scarcity will reach alarming levels in an increasing number of countries or regions within countries, particularly in the Near East/North Africa and South Asia."

The Organic Food Nutrition Wars
Prof. Joe Rosen, Rutgers University (

"The Organic Food Nutrition Wars" has been published by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) (  A summary is provided:

In late July a study commissioned by the United Kingdom's Food Standards Authority (Dangour et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28041) found no nutritional difference between organic and conventional food. This should have come as no surprise to anyone, as numerous scientific reviews have for years concluded the same thing. However, the organic food industry has managed to convince many people that their products are more nutritious because they contain a little more vitamin C (about 10% on average), a lot less nitrate, and varying percentages of higher antioxidant concentrations. Two "not for profit" organizations have been in the forefront of attempts to convince the public that the Dangour study is wrong.

One of these organizations is the United Kingdom's Soil Association, which has been trying to prove the nutritional superiority of organic food ever since it was founded in 1946. The Soil Association claims that there is much evidence for increased levels of   antioxidants in organic produce but has yet to produce a single peer-reviewed scientific publication to back up this claim. In October 2007, amid much fanfare in the British media, we were told that peer-reviewed articles showing increased antioxidant levels of "up to 40%" in organic produce would be available by October, 2008, but we're still waiting. On August 28 2009, Peter Melchett (Policy Director of the Soil Association) wrote that we will have to wait a bit longer as results "will be peer-reviewed and published next spring". (That's 2010, folks.)

In the USA, The Organic Center (an organization funded by the Organic Trade Organization and by CEO's from the major organic food producers and retailers) continues to cling to the claim that organic produce was 25% more nutritious than conventional produce.  But in order to be able to make this claim, the Organic Center had to include results from publications that were not peer-reviewed, data that were not statistically significant and results from experiments that did not fairly compare organic with conventional food. Their biggest stretch was in propagating the myth that higher nitrate levels in conventional food are unhealthy, when in fact the opposite is true. These glaring errors were exposed in a July 2008  article I wrote for ACSH and have never been corrected (
Impact of Volunteer GM Maize on Conventional Crops is Low
European Commission, Environment DG  Sep. 18, 2009

A recent EU-supported study has analysed the development of volunteer or 'rogue' GM (genetically modified) maize plants in a conventional crop field. It finds that their numbers are low and do not exceed the EU's threshold of 0.9 per cent for incidental GM content.

Scientific data on the role of maize volunteers on cross-pollination is limited. The most detailed studies have been conducted in Spain. The EU regulation on GM food and feed sets a threshold of 0.9 per cent incidental GM content in non-GM feed and food products. Above this threshold the products must be labelled as containing GM organisms (GMO). Volunteer plants are not planted deliberately by farmers. In the case of GM maize they usually grow from cobs or cob fragments that are left after harvesting and are particularly common in temperate regions.

To comply with the EU regulation it is important to understand the effect of GM volunteers on the yield of an otherwise conventional field.

The research took place in Girona, Spain, where both GM and conventional maize is grown. Twelve fields were researched in which GM maize had been grown in 2004 and conventional maize in 2005. The distribution of volunteer GM plants was recorded and classified over three years. The study also monitored the growth of the volunteers and the level of flowering and cob production. The research was supported by the EU SIGMEA and Co-Extra projects.

The density of volunteer plants ranged from residual (less than 30 per hectare) to extremely high (above 8000 per hectare and making up almost 10 per cent of total plants). The variation depended on several factors, such as climate and the preparation of the field before sowing. For example, furrows for irrigation eliminate a large number of volunteers.

The volunteer plants tended to be defective. They rarely produced cobs and those that were produced normally had no grains. Pollen dispersion appeared to be difficult because volunteers were much shorter than normal plants. When cross-fertilisation did occur it tended to be low.

On the basis of the number and fertility of the volunteer plants in the fields the study estimated the effect of the GM volunteers on the presence of GMO in the yield of a conventional maize crop grown in the field the following year. The percentage of GMO ranged from 0.016 to 0.16 per cent, depending on the field. This is well below the 0.9 per cent threshold established by EU legislation.

However, this contribution of volunteer plants to incidental GM levels should not be ignored, especially if the initial density of volunteer plants is above 1000 per hectare. This information is particularly valuable to growers who wish to know in advance the risk of incidental GMO from volunteers. Maize volunteers are usually easily controlled by currently applied agricultural techniques and potential accidental presence may therefore be considered negligible.
Denmark: GMO Crops Can Help Climate and Environment, According to A New Report from the Danish Food Ministry
Denmark, Ministry of Agriculture 18.sep.09 Via Bites and

Today, GMO crops are grown on 8% of the world's agricultural soil, and GMOs have potentials regarding climate and environment. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Danish Food Ministry.

The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has released a report on GMO's showing that the production of genetically modified (GM) crops has the potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2. The report also shows that GMOs are a promising way of producing plants that are more resistant towards changes in climate conditions.

Danish trials show that GM crops give farmers an opportunity to achieve the same harvest yield with reduced use of pesticides. That said, the report highlights that there is still a need for research into the possibilities and risks associated with GMOs, and the Food Ministry has therefore earmarked DKr 65 million for research into the use of biotechnology in farming and food. The report's conclusions will be presented at a conference on Friday 18 Sep tember, arranged by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in co-operation with the Confederation of Danish Industry. There will be a number of presentations based on the conclusions of the report. Read more about the report and register for the conference at (In Danish only).

Books & Articles

New Journal: GM Crops

In January of 2010 we will launch GM Crops, the first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind to focus exclusively on genetically modified crops.

We believe that this is an excellent time to start the journal because of the increasing focus on GM crops and improved agronomic traits. Genetic engineering techniques and applications have developed rapidly since the introduction of the first genetically modified plants in the 1980s. There has been a rapid increase in GM crop R&D by academia, government and industry around the world. GM crops are useful to consumers, farmers and the environment, and are growing in popularity worldwide.
ASK-FORCE General Forum by  Klaus Ammann
bulletIs the impact of Bt maize on non-target insects significantly negative as Lovei et al. claim?
bulletRebuttal to a Review of Dona and Arvanitoyannis 2009
bulletDo GM Crops fail to Produce More Yield ?
bulletAustrian Mice Study: Experiments
bulletAre Rat Organs Damaged after Feeding on GM soybeans as Dr. Ermakova claims ?
bulletAre Bt-toxins killing aquatic insects ?
bulletArpad Pusztai's rat experiments on food safety: Anatomy of a controversy 1998 – 2009
Agricultural Research, Productivity, and Food Prices in the Long Run
Julian M. Alston, Jason M. Beddow, Philip G. Pardey, Science Sept. 4 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5945, pp. 1209 - 1210 (for reprint - E-mail: ppardey(at) Excerpt below:

Global Crop Yields and Productivity.

Global yields for maize, rice, wheat, and soybeans (in metric tons per harvested hectare) grew rapidly from 1961 to 2007: Maize and wheat yields each grew by a factor of 2.6, while rice and soybean yields increased by a factor of 2.2 and 2.0, respectively. However, for all four crops, in both developed and developing countries, rates of yield growth were slower during 1990 to 2007 than during 1961 to 1990. A slowdown in crop yield growth was seen in more than half of the countries that grew these four crops. More critically, compared with all producing countries, a higher proportion of the top 10 producing countries experienced a slowdown for all four crops.


Plant Breeding Forum

GIPB is pleased to announce the launch of the Plant Breeding Forum listserv, an e-mail based forum for plant breeding and related fields. The purpose of PBForum-L is to create a means for plant breeders and those in related fields to interact easily on a regular and informal basis, with inquiry, discussion and debate. PBForum-L complements PBN-L, the Plant Breeding News, a monthly e-newsletter ( and the global forum feature of the GIPB website (

Who will benefit by subscribing?

The users of PBForum-L should include public and private-sector plant breeders, students, teachers, research administrators, the seed industry, policy-makers, farmers, and others.

Some of the ways you can use the forum:

bulletPose a question
bulletAsk for advice about your research
bulletRequest collaboration in a project
bulletComment or seek input on an issue of broad relevance to the plant breeding community
bulletSuggest ways to support the positive outcomes from plant breeding
bulletMake known to subscribers your willingness to provide input and support in an area of expertise

In order to participate you will need to subscribe:

  1. Address an e-mail to:
  2. Leave the subject line blank.
  3. In the message area, type: SUBSCRIBE PBForum-L
  4. You can unsubscribe at any time
You will receive a confirmation message of your subscription, and details on how the listserv works.
Erasmus Mundus

we are glad to inform you that the University of Foggia has decided to enjoy the Erasmus Mundus External Windows Cooperation, an international cooperation project concerning research activities in Europe and Latin America.

In this way, we would like to know if you are interested in taking part in this.

For further information, please contact me, referent of the project, Mrs. Luciana Colelli, to the following address:

Universitŕ degli Studi di Foggia
Area Affari e Relazioni Internazionali
Via Gramsci 89/91
71100 Foggia
fax 0881338545
2009 Eurobarometer Conference

Understanding European Public Opinion, Gothenburg, Sweden, 28 – 29 September.

Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture

On September 30, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) will release the most comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change on agriculture to date. The report provides specific projections for the year 2050 on crop yield declines, food price increases, and decreased calorie availability due to climate change.

It also compares the number of malnourished children in 2050 with and without climate change. Additionally, it projects the costs for overcoming these negative effects. The report includes breakdowns by region and results for major food commodities.

WHAT: Conference call briefings on the impact of climate change on agriculture
WHO: Gerald Nelson, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and report lead author
WHEN: Tuesday, September 29, 2009;12:00 GMT (8:00 am Washington, DC time) or 13:30 GMT (9:30 am Washington, DC

Europe - EU

Sustainable development Conference
enhanced site now online

The conference site now provides links from the programme overview to each session, from each session to each speaker (with a picture and biography in most cases), and from each speaker to their presentations and downloadable audio of their sessions.

Africa 'Resistant to GMOs Because of Relationship with EU'
The via

Europe's cautious approach to genetically modified crops is having a negative effect on agriculture in Africa, according to a group of farmers. A delegation of African farmers met with EU policymakers this week in Brussels to discuss the role of biotechnology in tackling the food crisis. Their meetings come amid concern over how climate change, drought and population increases will impact Africa's ability to feed its population.


German Biosafety Committee Statement on Bt Maize - the scientific arguments used in the German safeguard clause on MON810 (English translation):

Summary: The German Central Committee on Biological Safety (ZKBS) has taken the cultivation ban on Bt maize MON810 of April 2009 as an opportunity to review its risk assessment of the cultivation of Bt maize MON810 of 2007 and to subject six new studies on the impact of Bt maize on non-target organisms to a detailed assessment. These studies mostly comprise laboratory test and have partially been drawn on as decisive factors for the cultivation ban on MON810 ordered by the BMELV (Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection). The studies have been conducted by Rosi-Marshall et al. (2007), Böhn et al. (2008), Kramarz et al. (2007), Schmidt et al. (2009), Hofmann (2007) and Hofmann et al. (2009.

A scientific assessment of the study results has revealed that none of them confirm potential adverse effect on non-target organisms by MON810 under cultivation conditions. The assessment is also considering the fact that some of the studies are of scientifically lower quality. The conclusion of the ZKBS is in line with the expert assessment of a French author group (Ricroch et al., 2009) and the opinion of the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) on the request for renewal MON810 (EFSA, 2009). Both documents regard the German ban as scientifically not justified.

The ZKBS states that the cultivation of MON810 has no adverse effect on the environment.
France: Anti-GMO Protest in Front of a Pioneer Research Center (Against Mutant Sunflowers!)
AFP, August 26, 2009 (Rough Translation below)

MONTECH (Tarn-et-Garonne, France), 26 ao?t 2009 (AFP) - Around 100 demonstrators according to the police, 150 according to the organizers, protested on Wednesday afternoon in front of a research center of the seed company Pioneer in Montech (tarn-et-Garonne) against the development of "hidden GMOs".

The militants in Montech call "hidden GMO" this mutagen sunflower, which genetic traits are modified by chemical chock or irradiation, but not introduction of a new gene, as it is for transgenic plants.

According to Jean-Baptiste Libouban, another animator of the anti-GMO movement "it is not known at all what will be the consequences of these hidden GMOs on public health"

"The fight against GMO continues, it is entered in a second phase with the struggle against hidden GMOs" they said.

Manifestation anti-OGM devant un centre de recherche du semencier Pioneer(AFP) - 26 aoűt 2009
UK Government to Press EU on GM Crops
Farming UK,  Sept 16, 2009,

The UK Government is pressing the EU to address the issue of GM crops to avert feed costs spiralling out of control.

Fears that feed prices could be driven prohibitively high by current EU policy have been raised by all sectors of livestock farming - including the egg industry. In April this year we reported the view of economic analyst Peter van Horne, who told those attending the International Egg Commission conference in London that expenditure on feed could increase by as much as 600 per cent for egg producers if the EU did not act. The British Government has now raised the issue as part of a study on the country's future food security.

The main problem is soya. The major soya producing countries in North and South America have moved towards GM crops and growers are increasingly using varieties that have yet to be approved in Brussels. Peter van Horne warned in his report to the IEC that the EU needed to speed up the approval process for new varieties and adopt a more relaxed approach to the varieties awaiting approval to avoid a crisis.

Now the UK Government is also saying that the EU needs to improve the approval system. "They need to speed up the time it takes to approve new varieties," said a Defra spokesman. "That is what the Government is saying." He said that did not mean the EU had to compromise on safety. "However, if countries like Argentina and Brazil stop growing varieties that are approved by the EU that could lead to serious problems in terms of animal feed."

The issue of GM has been raised by the Government with the publication of the country's first food security assessment. As he launched the assessment, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn said the UK would need to change the way food was produced and processed so that the country continued to enjoy healthy, affordable food in the decades ahead. Later, speaking on radio, he urged Brussels to accept a speedier GM authorisation process. He said, "If GM can make a contribution then we have a choice as a society and as a world about whether to make use of that technology, and an increasing number of countries are growing GM products."
Britain Donating Millions to Biotech (but not in Britain)
Dennis T. Avery, Othello Outlook, Sep 09, 2009

Britain has pledged more than US$150 million over the next five years to support high-tech food crops for the world's poorest countries - primarily through genetic engineering.

The irony? Britain does not yet allow any biotech foods to be grown commercially within its borders ... not even to develop a genetically modified potato that is resistant to the new strain of potato blight that is ravaging British potato fields.

If the eco-activists hadn't pledged to rip out test plantings, the world would already have blight-resistant potatoes - a huge step forward in Third World food security.

The biggest piece of the new British funding will support development of drought-tolerant corn for Africa, following up the recent success of drought-tolerant biotech wheat in Australia. Such corn would be the biggest possible step forward for drought-prone small African farmers, ranking even ahead of the witchweed-resistant corn varieties recently produced by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

Another chunk of funding will support Syngenta's international work in developing genetically modified "Golden Rice," which will prevent childhood blindness due to severe shortages of Vitamin A in rice-dependent cultures. This deficiency is the world's leading preventable source of childhood blindness and involves millions of deaths.


Golden Rice to hit market by 2011
Food and Beverage News (India), Sept. 1, 2009

A genetically modified variety of rice called the Golden Rice will hit the market by 2011. This rice is developed to produce a carotenoid called beta carotene which gives the rice an orange-yellow hue, and hence its name. Moreover, the beta carotene becomes vitamin A when processed by the body, according to a report from Manila, Philippines. As per WHO statistics, four out of 10 children aged between six months and five years, and three out of 10 school children show symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. Similarly, 50% lactating and pregnant women also suffer from problems associated with vitamin A deficiency. Since rice is a staple in many Indian states, vitamin A fortified Golden Rice will be a boon to children and nursing mothers. As per data available in the Philippines, daily consumption of three cups of cooked Golden Rice can meet the vitamin A requirement of a person. Moreover Golden Rice also has the nutritional properties that can arrest avoidable blindness in children.

Research on this rice variety has been going on for more than a decade. The Golden Rice technology is based on a simple principle. Rice plants accumulate beta carotene in their leaves but not in the grain. By the addition of two genes -- phytoene synthase and phytoene desaturase - using modern technology, the beta carotene gets accumulated in the endosperm, which is the edible part of the grain. The technology involved in developing Golden Rice is free because its inventors have released all intellectual property rights to the public through the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board.

Golden Rice is expected to be released in the Philippines in 2011. Markets in India and Vietnam too are expected to get their version of Golden Rice during the same period.  The first Golden Rice was developed by Dr Ingo Potrykus and Dr Peter Beyer in 2000. Later, the duo teamed up with Syngenta, which produced Golden Rice with higher levels of beta carotene. Syngenta donated these materials to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which oversees development of Golden Rice in rice-producing countries, including India.

Golden Rice-1 was developed in 2003 and Golden Rice-2 in 2005. At present, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, popularly known as PhilRice, is developing a new Golden Rice variety that will be resistant to pests like tungro and bacterial blight.
Commercialized GM Crops and Yield
Matin Qaim , Arjunan Subramanian  & Prakash Sadashivappa, Nature Biotechnology 27, 803 - 804 (2009) (Georg-August University of Goettingen, Germany)

A News story in your July issue highlights a controversial report from the Union of Concerned Scientists concluding that commercialized genetically modified (GM) crops have had negligible effect on food crop yields in the United States 1. Despite the increasing use of GM crops around the world 2, agricultural biotech remains contentious in some countries, especially in Europe3. Influenced by biased reports, Europeans tend to overrate GM crop risks, while underrating the benefits 4. Claims that the technology is needed to ensure food security and poverty reduction are often considered empty promises and are dismissed as industry propaganda. This in turn prompts widespread public concerns about negative social implications in developing countries 5. Correspondence in this journal has also documented how GM crop opposition in Europe is hurting farmers and researchers 6. More seriously, through trade relations and lobbying efforts of antibiotech groups, European attitudes are spilling over to developing countries, where they crucially impede biotech developments as well 7. Here, we summarize our recent research on the socioeconomic effects of insect-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Bt) cotton in India 8, 9. In this case, at least, there is strong evidence that the trait in this crop is already contributing to poverty reduction in the subcontinent.


Mexico to Start First Genetically Modified Corn Plantings
Maja Wallengren, Dow Jones, Sept 25, 2009

Mexican agriculture authorities have given the green light to experimental plantings of genetically modified corn on 195 hectares by the end of the month, an Agriculture Ministry official said Friday.

News in Science

Scientists shed light on genetic mutation

An international group of scientists has succeeded in making the first direct measurement of the general rate of genetic mutation in humans. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, and the method developed by the researchers will fuel our understanding of the rates of mutation and could facilitate researchers' attempts to reduce mutations.

Dandelions Engineered for Natural Latex Production
Med Gadget, September 1, 2009

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Aachen, Germany have genetically modified a dandelion species to produce natural latex that doesn't immediately polymerizes when exposed to air. This can lead to large scale production of natural latex that, so far, has not been shown to cause allergies in people. If the plants prove themselves viable for agriculture, they may supplant synthetic latex altogether for medical applications.

"We have identified the enzyme responsible for the rapid polymerization and have switched it off," says Prof. Dr. Dirk Prüfer, Head of Department at the IME. "If the plant is cut, the latex flows out instead of being polymerized. We obtain four to five times the amount we would normally. If the plants were to be cultivated on a large scale, every hectare would produce 500 to 1000 kilograms of latex per growing season." The dandelion rubber has not caused any allergies so far, making it ideal for use in hospitals.

Edible Cotton
Bryan Walsh Time, Sept 4, 2009

It's as true in today's world as it was in the antebellum South: cotton is king. The plant has been cultivated for its fiber for over 7,000 years, and today it's grown by more than 20 million farmers in some 80 countries. But while cotton accounts for nearly 40% of the fiber used worldwide to make clothing, there's one thing the plant has never been able to do well: feed people. Cottonseeds are a rich source of protein--the current cotton crop produces enough seeds to meet the daily requirements of half a billion people a year. But the seeds can be consumed only after an extensive refining process removes the gossypol, a toxic chemical that helps protect the plant from insect and microbe infestation. "People, pigs, chickens--none of us can stomach gossypol," says Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural research for the industry group Cotton Inc. Only cows and other ruminants can handle it.

Remove the gossypol, however, and you'd have a cheap and abundant form of protein for everyone. But get rid of all the gossypol, as plant breeders did in the 1950s, and insects will devour the defenseless cotton. Enter Keerti Rathore, a professor at Texas A&M University, who found a way around the problem through genetic engineering.

Safe seed: Researchers Yielding Good Results On Food Cotton In Field
Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&m AgriLife Communications,

But less than three years ago, Rathore's paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announced that cotton plants had been successfully altered in the lab to "silence" gossypol in the seed. Five generations of cotton plants produced in greenhouses and the small test plot in the field this year are showing similar findings, Rathore said, though the results have not yet been published in scholarly journals.

"We have analyzed the plant leaves, flower organs and seeds," Rathore said of the first plant grown under normal farm conditions. "The levels of gossypol and related defense chemicals are similar to that of regular cotton plants in the buds, leaves and flowers. But the seed is still showing the ultra-low levels of gossypol."

Engineered Pea Seeds Protect Against Parasites
Graeme Baldwin, BioMed Central. Sept 10, 2009

A breed of pea seeds has been created that contains antibodies against coccidiosis, a disease caused by a parasite that attacks chickens. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biotechnology describe the development of the GM seeds, and demonstrate their effectiveness in preventing this economically important illness.

Sergej Kiprijanov worked with a team of researchers from Novoplant GmbH, Germany, to develop the seeds. He said, "There are a few major issues precluding the use of monoclonal antibodies for passive immunization of chickens against infectious diseases, primarily the costs of antibody production and treatment. Treatment costs are high because antibodies must normally be given intravenously; otherwise they are destroyed in the animal's gut. By expressing the antibodies inside pea seeds, they are protected from this degradation - allowing our system to dramatically reduce treatment costs".

Notes to Editors

1. Antibody expressing pea seeds as fodder for prevention of gastrointestinal parasitic infections in chickens
Jana Zimmermann, Isolde Saalbach, Doreen Jahn, Martin Giersberg, Sigrun Haehnel, Julia Wedel, Jeanette Macek, Karen Zoufal, Gerhard Glunder, Dieter Falkenburg and Sergej M Kiprijanov
BMC Biotechnology (in press)

Article available at journal website:

Breeding Rust-resistant Wheat with DNA Technology

CSIRO scientists are breeding new varieties of disease-resistant wheat in an effort to improve acrop yields and avert a potential food supply crisis. Rust pathogens, however, are very adptable and can rapidly evolve into new strains that can infect previously rust-resistant plants. For example, in 2002 a new virulent strain of the stripe rust pathogen appeared in Australia and has continued to cause serious annual crop losses ever since. It is a constant battle for wheat breeders to try to develop new cereal varieties with effective and long-lasting rust resistance.

In addition to conventional breeding with DNA markers, the team also aims to 'stack' multiple cloned resistance genes into wheat as a 'disease control cassette', producing genetically modified (GM) wheat varieties with a solid resistance to all three rust types.

Crossbreeding GM Crops May Increase Fitness of Wild Relatives
Environmental Expert, Sep. 10, 2009 (European Commission, Environment DG )

A new study has investigated the effects of interbreeding a genetically modified squash crop with its wild relative. The findings demonstrate that it could cause wild or weedy relatives to become more resistant to disease.

Science Closer to Drug-Free Cannabis Plant
(Or Why Hippies Hate Biotech?)
United Press International, September 17, 2009

Minneapolis -- U.S. scientists say they are moving closer to engineering a totally drug-free cannabis plant to produce hemp fiber and oil.

University of Minnesota researchers said they have identified genes producing tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Studying the genes could also lead to new and better drugs for pain, nausea and other conditions, the scientists, led by Professor David Marks, said.

The researchers said they discovered the genes are active in tiny hairs covering the flowers of cannabis plants. In marijuana, the hairs accumulate high amounts of THC, whereas in hemp the hairs have little. Hemp and marijuana are difficult to distinguish apart from differences in THC.

With the genes identified, finding a way to silence them and thus produce a drug-free plant comes a step closer to reality. Another desirable step, the scientists said, is to make drug-free plants visually recognizable. Since the hairs can be seen with a magnifying glass, this could be accomplished by engineering a hairless cannabis plant.

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