News in February 2010
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Greenpeace Must Be Held Accountable for Slowing Biotech Progress: An African Journalist
Peter Wamboga-Mugirya (Kampala, Uganda),
Feb 3, 2010; AgBioView,

The new Green Peace international Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, states among others: "In view of developments like Golden Rice, Greenpeace must reconsider its position with regard to GMOs. We must make sure not to dismiss new and important developments."

This may be a very exciting and at the same time, a very intriguing statement or position by this leading and well-known global anti-biotech/GMOs  NGO. What I wish to know right away is whether this is a paradigm shift by Greenpeace, a new single policy position or just Kumi Naidoo's view? Whereas the move is being welcomed in some quarters, in other quarters like mine, Greenpeace has a lot of questions to answer and accountability to make, for their long-held opposition to the science of biotechnology and particularly GMOs-a product of the scientific process of genetic modification/engineering (GM/GE). Peter Wamboga-Mugirya, Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development (Scifode), Kampala, UGANDA.,

Books & Articles

Farming Must Embrace GM technology to Fight 21st-century Food Cisis
Mark Henderson The Times (UK)
February 12, 2010

Nina Fedoroff, who advises the US Secretary of State on science and technology, heads a group of senior researchers who call today for a "radical rethink" of farm practice to meet 21st-century demand for food. Writing in the journal Science, they urge world leaders to do more to promote GM technologies so that scientists can create crops that produce higher yields and that can grow in the harsh conditions of a warmer world. "There is a critical need to get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology and develop forward-looking regulatory frameworks based on scientific evidence," the scientists say.

Report Blames GM Crops for Herbicide Spike, Downplays Pesticide Reductions
Cormac Sheridan, Nature Biotechnology, vol. 12(2), pages 112-3
February 2010

A recent report published by the Organic Center, an organic farming advocacy organization headquartered in Foster, Rhode Island, claims that the use of herbicides in weed control has risen sharply since transgenic crops' commercial introduction in 1996.

Several critics have questioned the assumptions underlying the analysis and any significance that can be drawn from it, particularly as the report comes from an advocacy group seeking to "communicate the verifiable benefits of organic farming and products to society."

Rising glyphosate resistance is a plausible explanation for the increasing use of herbicides, however. Among plant scientists, there is little disagreement on the problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds. "It certainly is fair to point out the failure in glyphosate stewardship, that the threat of resistance wasn't appreciated, that more diverse management wasn't used to try to prevent or delay resistance emerging," says Chris Boerboom, extension weed scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The issue of herbicide resistance has already become acute in some US states. Report author Benbrook claims that the cotton and soy industries in the Southeast are on "the brink of collapse" because of the cost of dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds. Benbrook goes on to argue that increasing reliance on herbicides paired with more expensive, engineered tolerance traits will erode farmers' profitability, while compounding environmental and public health risks (through increased chemical exposure).

The report is based on extrapolations of pesticide use survey data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Benbrook relies on annual trait acreage data compiled by St. Louis-based Monsanto to disaggregate transgenic crops from the total crop acreage. However, no NASS data on corn or soy are available for 2007 or 2008, years for which Benbrook posits unusually large pesticide increases of 20% and 27%, respectively. The main uncertainties stem from gaps in NASS data, which, since 2001, have only been gathered intermittently, and from that data's failure to distinguish between pesticide use on transgenic crop varieties and on their conventional counterparts.

Delivering genetically engineered crops to poor farmers
Jose Falck-Zepeda and colleagues: Flexible, efficient, and innovative approaches for cost-effective risk assessment should be considered by policy makers and regulators in developing countries. The authors recommend that developing countries should explore and assess all available options (including both established agricultural practices and emerging technologies) and integrate them into efficient, locally adapted farming systems.

Download the full policy brief at

Regulatory Process a Hindrance in Public Sector Development of GE Crops Says Beachy
"Without additional support, there will likely be few genetically enhanced crops developed by public sector researchers in the marketplace in the near future," said Dr. Roger Beachy, head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in an interview published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Beachy identified the high cost involved in the regulatory process as essentially eliminating public sector participation in commercialization. He also noted the lack of expertise and infrastructure to provide regulatory authorities with the necessary documentation for regulatory approval. "I am very interested in having a regulatory structure that is science-based," he added.

Subscribers of Nature Biotechnology can view the full transcription of the interview at

Socio-economic impacts of green biotechnology

1996 is generally seen as the starting date for the large-scale commercial application of biotech crops. Since then, the technology has spread rapidly around the world, both in industrialized and developing countries (James, 2008): The 74-fold hectare increase since 1996 makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology.

In 2008, 13.3 million farmers cultivated biotech crops in 25 countries. Notably, 90%, or 12.3 million were small and resource-poor farmers in developing countries. Most were Bt cotton farmers: 7.1 million in China (Bt cotton), 5.0 million in India (Bt cotton), 0.2 million in the Philippines (biotech maize), South Africa (biotech cotton, maize and soybeans often grown by subsistence women farmers) and the other eight developing countries which grew biotech crops in 2008.

Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People
H. Charles J. Godfray,* John R. Beddington, Ian R. Crute, Lawrence Haddad, David Lawrence, James F. Muir, Jules Pretty, Sherman Robinson, Sandy M. Thomas, Camilla Toulmin
Originally published in Science Express on 28 January 2010 Science 12 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5967, pp. 812 – 818 DOI: 10.1126/science.1185383
Feeding the Future
Caroline Ash et al. Science 12 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5967, p. 797;327/5967/797

Feeding the 9 billion people expected to inhabit our planet by 2050 will be an unprecedented challenge. This special issue examines the obstacles to achieving global food security and some promising solutions. News articles take us into the fields, introducing farmers and researchers who are finding ways to boost harvests, especially in the developing world. Reviews, Perspectives, a special single-topic podcast, and an audio interview done by a high school intern provide a broader context for the causes and effects of food insecurity and point to paths to ending hunger.

Reaping Benefits of Crop Research
David Baulcombe Science 12 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5967, p. 761

In 2009, for the first time since the 1950s and the early stages of the Green Revolution, food security was taken seriously by policy-makers. There was substantial output from the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, and with studies by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a UK government Foresight group due this year, there is no sign that this renewed interest will fade. This revival follows assessments by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and others that population growth, urbanization, climate change, and the availability of natural resources present a challenge to global food security. Somehow the world must produce 50 to 100% more food than at present under environmental constraints that have not applied in the past.

David Baulcombe is Regius Professor of Botany and Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Cambridge. His research is on RNA silencing, epigenetics, and disease resistance in plants.

EuropaBio’s input to the EC consultation on the future “EU 2020 Strategy”:
Towards a bio-economy in 2020
January 2010

Creating a competitive, connected and greener economy

For further information, please contact: euro;

EU Farmers and GM crops

All over Europe, farmers are facing difficult times. They are confronted with 4 major challenges:

  1. Keeping farming profitable, while production cista are steadily increasing
  2. Growing more food in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way, on the same if not reduced area of land
  3. Adapting to the effects of climate change, including less productive land, new plant diseases, higher energy costss and scarcer water supplies
  4. Remaining competitive on a global scale, while being deprived of modern methods available to many other farmers worldwide.

Farmers are struggling to meet these combined challenges while also trying to optimise inputs of fuel, fertiliser, pesticides and water. New technologies, such as genetic modification, are helping farmers to respond to these demands. That is why 13.3 million farmers around the world now choose to grow GM crops1 ; making agricultural biotech one of the fastest adopted agricultural innovations ever.

Agricultural and health biotechnologies: Building blocks of the bioeconomy.
David Sawaya Ed.
Special Issue of OECD Journal General papers, Vol 2009/3
The Production and Price Impact of Biotech Crops
- Graham Brookes, Tun-Hsiang (Edward) Yu, Simla Tokgoz, and Amani Elobeid, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University,
Working Paper 10-WP 503 (January 2010),
Download full paper at (40 pp.)
Economic Importance of Agriculture for Poverty Reduction
Cervantes-Godoy, D. and J. Dewbre (2010), “Economic
Importance of Agriculture for Poverty Reduction”, OECD
Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Working Papers, No. 23,
OECD Publishing.
doi: 10.1787/5kmmv9s20944-en

The Millennium Declaration set 2015 as the target date for halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. Exceptional progress in some developing countries makes achieving that goal globally a realistic possibility. However, many countries will fall far short, and up to 1 billion people are likely to remain destitute by the target date. Why are some countries doing better than others? This paper seeks to answer this question by looking for shared characteristics of twenty-five developing countries posting extraordinary success in reducing extreme poverty over the past twenty to twenty-five years. These countries were compared using indicators of their macro-economic characteristics and, especially, their agricultural economic characteristics. The countries chosen for analysis constitute a highly diverse mix.

The group includes some of the poorest and some of the richest developing countries in the world, representing virtually all geographic regions. The countries also differ greatly in their systems of governance and economic management. Yet, they are surprisingly similar in their achievements, not only in reducing poverty, but across the broad range of macroeconomic and agricultural economic performance measures used to compare them. Findings from time-series, cross-section regression analysis reveal that while economic growth generally was an important contributor to poverty reduction, the sector mix of growth mattered substantially, with growth in agricultural incomes being especially important.

The Challenge of Improving Nutrition: Facts and Figures
Priya Shetty,, Jan 20, 2010

Full paper including graphs and references at

Biosciences (BIOSCI) to you. BIOSCI
is a new journal launched by the Scientific Research Publishing from USA. With an open access publication model of this journal, all interested readers around the world can freely access articles online at without subscription. Email:
Second-generation biofuels can play a crucial role in the transport sector says Sustainable Production of Second-Generation Biofuels:
Report (PDF - 4.29 mb)
NGOs and GMOs - A Case Study In Alternative Science Communication
Maeseele et al,  Javnost - the Public,  16(4):55-72).

This article seeks to understand how and why we find local NGOs performing a role as alternative science communicators in the social conflict concerning agricultural biotechnology. First, a literature review points out that in the face of modernisation risks tech no-scientific development has become contradictory, an evolution exemplified as well as driven by interdisciplinary antagonisms."

I report on the findings of six in-depth interviews with spokespersons for these NGOs, the aim being to achieve an understanding of how these NGOs make sense of their encounters with science in the GM debate and how they situate themselves in their role as alternative science communicators," wrote P. Maeseele and colleagues, Erasmus University (see also Biotechnology).

Finally, I conclude by making some recommendations for journalism in general and science journalism in particular.

P. Maeseele, Erasmus University, College Brussels, NL-3000 DR Rotterdam, Netherlands. 'Javnost - the Public' is from European Institute Communication Culture, PO Box 2511, Ljubljana 1001, Slovenia.

Policies for Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries: The Role of Non-State Actors
Mara Nielle Bird, Dissertation for Ph.D. - International Relations, University of Southern California - 2006. Full thesis at;jsessionid=862049AF4BA514DFE139DA78ACA02CD1

The objective of this study is to address the puzzle of why states in the developing world with similar concerns and conditions have been slow to adopt transgenic (recombinant DNA, genetically modified/engineered) crop technologies, while others were pioneer users and developers of this technology.


AgriBiotech in Developing Countries
The FAO international technical conference on Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10) will be held in Guadalajara on March 1-4, 2010. Host of the conference will be the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

For further information email or visit

BIO-Europe Spring 2010
This one of most important meetings on biotechnology partnering will occur in Barcelona on March 8-10 2010 at Centre de Convencions Internacionals (CCIB). (
BioVisionAlexandria 2010
Date:11-15 April 2010
Theme: “New Life Sciences: Future Prospects”
Location: Conference Center, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt.

Description: As a continuation of the tradition that started in BioVision 1999 in Lyon, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has been honored to be an associate with BioVision by which it holds the BioVisionAlexandria every even year alternating with the World Life Science Forum held in Lyon every odd year.

Rimini – Italy, 14-18 September 2010
European Conference on Corporate R&D – An engine for growth, a challenge for European policy [CONCORD 2010]
To be held in Seville (Spain) on 3rd and 4th March 2010

General information:
Conference Programme:

'The Role Of Biosafety Research In The Decision-Making Process' - International Symposium on the Biosafety of GMOs
Buenos Aires, Argentina,  November 15 - 20  2010

The 11th ISBGMO will include plenary sessions, poster sessions, workshops and training sessions. There will be a visit to experimental and commercial GM crops. An entertaining social programme also is planned. Subjects will include studies of the environmental biosafety of a range of GM plants and insects, risk assessment methods, risk management and the interactions between scientific information and regulation of GMOs.

Kick-off meeting : SSH FP7 project CLICO
"Climate change, hydro-conflicts and human resources"

Media headlines are dominated by the prospect of regional water wars. Clearly, climate change poses threats to human security; hydro-climatic hazards such as droughts and floods have a capacity to exacerbate social tensions, intra- and inter-state conflict. Yet cooperation often trumps conflict, though attention needs also to be paid to cases where domination is masked as cooperation. Surprisingly, there are few peer-reviewed studies rigorously addressing links between climate change, hydrology, conflict and security. 25-27 February 2010, Barcelona

IAPB 12th World Congress
June 6-11, 2010; St. Louis, MO;

The full schedule of approximately 60 plenary and keynote lectures to be presented at the 12th World Congress of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology (IAPB),, at the America's Center in downtown, St. Louis, Missouri, is now available online at

In addition, information about reduced rates for early registration that ends February 1, 2010, as well as general information is available on the website (see also Biotechnology).

Plant Biology 2010: Bringing together the global community of plant biologists
July 31-August 4, 2010; Montreal, Canada

Joint Annual Meeting of The American Society of Plant Biologists and The Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists-La Société Canadienne de Physiologie Végétale.

Special ASPB President's Symposium: Next Wave of Plant Biotechnology Organizer: Tuan-hua David Ho, Washington University

Europe - EU

Health and environment in the CR
The European Union has granted over EUR 24 million in funding to researchers in the Czech Republic to investigate the link between the state of the environment and of the population's health. Masaryk University (MU), the Veterinary Research Institute and the Institute of Scientific Instruments will use the funding to construct a new research centre and purchase equipment. The doors of the new centre are expected to open in 2012.

The Impact of EU GMO Regulation on Agricultural Biotechnology Research for The Public Good
Thursday 25 February 2010, 14:30 - 18:30 at European Parliament, Brussels

The world community is confronted with unprecedented, escalating developments such as growing world population (+ 50% by 2050); increased consumption of food, feed, fibre and fuel; loss of agricultural land (- 50% by 2050); shortage of fresh water; climate change; increasing demand for renewable fuels, and loss of natural habitats and biodiversity. The Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and the Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel of the European Parliament (STOA) will organise a seminar to address this. The seminar will discuss how current regulations and policies impact the potential for public biotechnology research.

European Food Safety Authority Analyzes and Dismisses the new Seralini Paper
GMO Panel deliberations on the paper by de Vendômois et al. (2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health, International Journal of Biological Sciences, 5: 706-726) - EFSA/GMO/578 to be published at

The GMO Panel concludes that the authors' claims, regarding new side effects indicating kidney and liver toxicity, are not supported by the data provided in their paper. There is no new information that would lead it to reconsider its previous opinions on the three maize events MON810, MON863 and NK603, which concluded that there were no indications of adverse effects for human, animal health and the environment.

The GMO Panel notes that several of its fundamental statistical criticisms (EFSA, 2007a,b) of the authors' earlier study (Seralini et al., 2007) of maize MON863 are also applicable to the new paper by de Vendômois et al. In the GMO Panel's extensive evaluation of Seralini et al. (2007), reasons for the apparent excess of significant differences found for MON863 (8%) were given and it was shown that this raised no safety concerns. The percentage of variables tested reported by de Vendômois et al. that were significant for NK603 (9%) and MON810 (6%) were of similar magnitude to that for MON863.

The GMO Panel considers that de Vendômois et al.: (1) make erroneous statements concerning the use of reference varieties to provide estimates of variability that allow equivalence testing to place statistically significant results into biological context as advocated by EFSA (2008, 2009a); (2) do not use the available information concerning normal background variability between animals fed with different diets, to place observed differences into biological context; (3) do not present results using their False Discovery Rate methodology in a meaningful way; (4) give no evidence to relate well known gender differences in response to diet to claims of effects due to the respective GMOs; (5) estimate statistical power based on inappropriate analyses and magnitudes of difference.

The significant differences highlighted by de Vendômois et al. have all been considered previously by the GMO Panel in its previous opinions on the three maize events MON810, MON863 and NK603. The study by de Vendômois et al. provides no new evidence of toxic effects. The approach used by de Vendômois et al. does not allow a proper assessment of the differences claimed between the GMOs and their respective counterparts for their toxicological relevance because: (1) results are presented exclusively in the form of percentage differences for each variable, rather than in their actual measured units; (2) the calculated values of the toxicological parameters tested are not related to the normal range for the species concerned; (3) the calculated values of the toxicological parameters tested are not compared with ranges of variation found in test animals fed with diets containing different reference varieties; (4) the statistically significant differences did not show consistency patterns over endpoint variables and doses; (5) the inconsistencies between the purely statistical arguments of de Vendômois et al., and the results for these three animal feeding studies which relate to organ pathology, histopathology and histochemistry, are not addressed.

Regarding claims made by de Vendômois et al. concerning the inadequacy of the experimental design of these three animal feeding studies, the GMO Panel notes that they were all carried out to agreed internationally-defined standards consistent with OECD protocols.

The buzz on the decline of the honey bee

A team of scientists has found that the number of bee colonies in central Europe has shrunk over the years, and the number of beekeepers in Europe has declined since 1985. The findings, presented in the Journal of Apicultural Research, add weight to an escalating problem. The results are part of the EU-funded ALARM ('Assessing large-scale environmental risks with tested methods') project, which received more than EUR 12.5 million under the 'Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems' Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Summary Notifications that have been submitted under Directive 2001/18/EC
Czech Republic Agritec, Research, Breeding & Services, Ltd.
Biotechnology Tools for Improving Disease Resistance and Seed Quality in Legumes; Functional Genomics and Proteomics in Plant Breeding

Spain Syngenta Seeds SAS - Field trials of Bt11 maize ,
Bt11xMIR604xGA21 stacked maize; H7-1 sugar beet, H7-1xSBVR111 sugar beet, Rhizomania resistant SBVR111 sugar beet;

Spain - Instituto de Agrobiotecnología, Universidad Pública de Navarra/Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Starch synthase (AtSS4) use for the production of potato plants with increased starch levels.

Spain - PIONEER HI-BRED AGRO SERVICIOS SPAIN S.L. deliberate release of genetically modified DAS-01507-1xMON-00603-6 maize varieties, MON-00603-6 maize varieties

Spain - Bayer BioScience N.V. genetically modified cotton variety, herbicide tolerant, herbicide tolerant and insect resistance cotton transformation event GHB119,

Spain - Monsanto Europe, S.A - genetically modified maize NK603 and hybrids, MON 89034 x MON 88017.

Spain - Centro Nacional de Biotecnología- CSIC - Potato transgenic lines resistant to heat stress.

France – INRA, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - Expérimentation en milieu non-confiné de porte-greffes transgéniques de vigne exprimant le g?ne de la protéine de capside du Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV).

Netherlands - Wageningen University - Selection of genetic modified potato plants for late blight resistence.

Slovakia - Crop Production Research Centre, deliberate release of NK603.

United Kingdom - The Sainsbury Laboratory - Improving late blight (Phytophthora infestans) resistance in potato using resistance genes from South American potato relativem.

United Kongdom - University of Leeds - Control of potato cyst-nematodes with minimised environmental impact


SynBIOsis promotes solid European research ties
Synergies that fuel the European Research Area (ERA) also promote the scientific development of regions across the EU. Enter the SynBIOsis ('Maximising synergies for central European biotech research infrastructures') project that has brought together two research-driven clusters (RDCs) — Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy) and South Moravia (Czech Republic) — that are active in diverse research fields including bioinformatics, computational biology and biomedicine.

Italian Court Gives GM Go-ahead
Agra Europe,February 5, 2010

The highest appeals court in Italy has overturned a standing ban on the cultivation of genetically modified plants. According to Agra Europe, the highest court in Italy has instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to allow the planting of genetically modified (GM) maize. The existing ban on the cultivation of such maize thereby is lifted.

The Italian public is fundamentally inclined towards a sceptical view of genetic modification and the court move has provoked great outcry.

When will Europe's politicians listen?
Europe's farmers again call for access to GM crops to meet challenge to feed the world
EURACTIV 9 February 2010

Brussels - The uptake of new technology such as genetic modification is the most important tool in the box to meet the challenge of nourishing a growing global population. That is the message from thousands of farmers who have recently taken part in a global poll run in 6 leading farming magazines.

The UK Farmers Weeklyand the Dutch Boerderij gave European farmers the chance to air their views on solutions to feeding the world, while votes also rushed in from their counterparts in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada.

The results tell their own story. With 37.1% of the total votes, new technologies and genetic modification were by far the most popular of the five presented key factors. The remaining votes were split between broader expertise through education and training (20.3%), investment in research and development (18%), removal of trade barriers (14.7%), and government intervention in food production (10%).

Commenting on the poll, Morten Nielsen, Director of Agricultural Biotech at EuropaBio said "Throughout history, farmers have used new technologies in order to meet the needs of society; these results show that things are no different today. Food security and climate change will be two of the major challenges that the world will face in the 21st century. This will require significant changes in how we produce food and while policy makers can play a part, at the end of the day farmers need practical solutions to practical problems. This poll reinforces the message from many European farmers who have been calling for access to GM crops for several years.

9 out of 10 consumers 'confused by GM'
Farmers Guardian - 2 February 2010 | By William Surman

MOST consumers are confused by genetically modified food and want the Food Standards Agency to educate them.

According to an IGD consumer survey the FSA is best placed to reverse a gap in knowledge where only 7 per cent of consumers can demonstrate an understanding of GM technology.

Speaking at a high-level Westminster debate on the future of food on Tuesday (2 February) Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, the food and grocery experts, said consumers trusted the FSA more than anybody else.

“Consumers don’t have enough information to make an informed choice on GM.

“Shoppers are very clear that the FSA, who they believe has a lot of integrity, should give them that information,” she said, adding consumer knowledge on GM had remained stationary for more than a decade.

Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, backed the IGD call for an FSA-led debate.

Farm industry figures feared a lack of knowledge on GM would breed mistrust in the technology and hamper attempts to develop food security solutions.

Terry Jones, NFU head of government affairs, said: “We need all the tools in the toolbox to address food security challenges. We need proper science-based research and the FSA are the best placed body to make sure people are properly informed on this.”

Dr. Jo Bray, from Defra’s food policy unit, agreed ‘a sensible debate was paramount’.

“In terms of meeting global food challenges we can’t rule anything out,” she said, “but our first concern must be food safety and we need a sensible debate with consumers.”

GM Crop Biosafety Lab Folds
A fully equipped laboratory for studying pathogen-resistant transgenic plants will close its doors by the year's end. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) Biosafety Outstation in Ca'Tron di Roncade, Treviso, Italy, was set up to study potential risks concerning genetically modified crops and plant pathogens of importance to the developing world. The outstation's facilities, part of the ICGEB, were refurbished with financing from Treviso-based Cassamarca Foundation, supported by banking group Unicredit.

But the bank's financial woes have prevented the foundation from renewing the euro4-million ($5.7 million), 5-year contract.

ICGEB administrator Decio Ripandelli hopes to shift some of the outstation's research and education programs to the Trieste and New Delhi groups.  Ripandelli says he lobbied the Cassamarca Foundation to put the facilities, including a high-containment greenhouse, into a "pharmacological coma" to avoid restarting from scratch but the foundation is noncommittal. Ripandelli says, "It's really a pity and a scandal if the facilities are not used."

EFSA's Opinion on the Prohibition of GM Crops in Madeira
On May 2009, Portugal notified the European Union its intention to declare the Autonomous Region of Madeira as a GMO-free region. Following the notification, the European Commission requested the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA's) GMO Panel to investigate on whether the information mentioned in the documents submitted by Portugal contains any new scientific evidence in terms of protection of the environment in the Autonomous Region of Madeira, that would justify prohibition of GMOs. EFSA has now released its opinion.

The EFSA GMO Panel said that, based on the supporting documents submitted by Portugal, no new scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, was provided that would justify a prohibition of the cultivation of GM plants in Madeira. EFSA noted that it only investigated on aspects that relate to the protection of human and animal health and the environment and not on socio-economic aspects.

Download EFSA's Opinion at

We Eat GM Food Now. Why Not Grow It?
Ross Clark, The Times (UK and ROI) February 10, 2010

Britain is missing out on a vital new technology by letting Luddites make all the running'. Other countries are taking the lead in a growing and inevitable technology which Britain could, and should, have been leading. Fourteen years ago we were at the forefront of GM technology, not just in the science, but in developing procedures to ensure the environmental and medical safety of new crops. Then came the campaign against "Frankenstein foods", culminating in protesters dressed in radioactive suits and trampling down trial crops.

Logically, we are safer eating GM foods than other novel foods precisely because they have been subjected to exhaustive safety tests. No such tests were conducted into the health effects of peanuts before they were introduced into the British diet, and we have since found out the hard way that they can cause a fatal allergy in a minority of consumers.

The world will steadily turn to GM crops with or without us, because the case for them is so compelling. Not every GM crop will be a success, but the technology offers a short cut to the process of crop improvement that has been going on for centuries by means of selective breeding.

Ukrainian Cabinet wants Parliament to Cancel 'GMO Free' Marking
The Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, has adopted new laws requiring the mandatory labeling of all products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The new laws' provision requires all food products in circulation in Ukraine to contain information on the presence or absence of GMO ingredients, with the labels "GMO-free" or "With GMO". Now the Cabinet of Ministers wants the Verkhovna Rada to cancel the obligatory requirement for "GMO Free" labeling and that only products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be marked. This decision was announced by Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn.

The law requiring mandatory marking of products containing genetically modified organisms was signed by Viktor Yuschenko on December 29, 2009.

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An absurd law Turkey's government is about to pass legislation that could cripple the country's biological research.
Editorial Nature 463, 1000 (25 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/4631000a; Published online 24 February 2010

When politicians respond to popular distrust of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), they sometimes fail to grasp how intricately molecular technologies infiltrate different areas of science. A case in point is now playing out in Turkey, where an attempt to regulate GMOs in agriculture has morphed into a draft law that could wipe out the country's biomedical research.

Most of Turkey's scientists learnt about the situation only a few weeks ago. Some responded immediately, organizing meetings and petitions, and lobbying parliamentarians to try to stage a last-minute reprieve. But as Nature goes to press, it seems likely that the law will be voted in by parliament this week without change. Ironically, it will go through at a time when many universities in Turkey are expanding their activities in biomedical research.

The law was first drafted after Turkey signed up to the United Nations Environmental Programme's International Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2000. This requires signatories to create legislation to regulate the international trade, handling and use of any GMO that might have adverse effects on biodiversity or human health.

Turkey was at the same time trying to align much of its legislation with that of the European Union, which it aspires to join. The first draft was prepared with input from Turkey's research council, TÜBİTAK, and followed European regulations that separate deliberate release of GMOs into the environment — cultivation of GM crops, for example — and the contained use of GMOs for research.

Before this draft could be made law, the government changed and the mildly Islamic AK Party took office in 2002. Responsibility for the law transferred from the environment ministry to the agriculture ministry, which did not consult with molecular biologists. Over the years, the draft law's form changed. At the same time, popular opposition to genetic engineering in general, and GM food in particular, increased.

The version now being voted on fails to distinguish between deliberate release and contained use. It includes an outright ban on the cultivation of all GM crops, even those whose safety has been assessed and approved by expert bodies. It also bans the generation of genetically manipulated animals and microorganisms.

The law does not forbid research using GMOs or products derived from genetic engineering, but it makes such research impracticable. Every individual procedure would have to be approved by an inter-ministerial committee headed by the agriculture ministry, which is allowed 90 days to consider each application with the help


Obama Wants 36 Billion Gallons of Biofuels, Ethanol per Year by 2022
February 4, 2010 /EIN PRESSWIRE/ Outlining his alternative energy proposals, President Barack Obama wants the US to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels per year by 2022.

The 36 billion gallons comes from a mandate in an existing 2007 energy bill, but currently the US produces only 12 billion gallons of biofuels and has no capacity to triple production. The EPA says that meeting this 2022 standard would reduce oil use by 328 billion barrels a year.

This increase in biofuel production could be a boon for the biofuel industry, but industry representatives are concerned about whether the government has the money and willingness to support building the plants and pipelines needed to take biofuels to the next level.

Read more about this story at Biofuel Industry Today:

GM Fears May Harm Herdy
Eloise Gibson, New Zealand Herald, Jan 28, 2010

Hillary Clinton's science adviser Nina Fedoroff has ruffled the feathers of the anti-GM lobby, calling their arguments "tragically bad" and saying public fears risk blocking food from the needy when climate change hits. Nina Fedoroff, science adviser to the United States Secretary of State, says people will starve if climate change cuts water supplies and raises temperatures while people remain too afraid to use genetically modified crops. Echoing dire warnings by climate scientists, she said water shortages and rising heat could cut crop yields in the order of 10 per cent per 1oC of warming this century but said countries were being blocked from using modern science to fight it. Globally the population was predicted to swell 2-3 billion by mid-century, while the driest and most populous places got drier, potentially creating a surge of political instability and environmental refugees, she said. "If there are more and more environmental refugees, they are going to end up on your doorstep too," she told a public gathering at Auckland University.

Peruvian GM Advocate Faces Criminal Charles
Lucas Laursen Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 12(2), Page 110 February 2010

A molecular biologist could face a prison sentence for criticizing a report on transgenic gene spread. Ernesto Bustamante Donayre, vice president of the Peruvian College of Biologists, a professional organization, stands accused of defamation, a criminal offense, which in Peru can carry a prison term or fine.

What triggered the suit was his public criticism of a report prepared by Antonietta Ornella Gutiérrez Rosati, a biologist at the La Molina National Agricultural University in Lima, identifying a P34S promoter and NK603 and BT11 transgenes in 14 of 42 maize samples from the Barranca region. Gutiérrez sent summaries of her findings to both the National Agricultural Research Institute and El Comercio newspaper in 2007 calling for a moratorium on transgenic crops until biosafety regulations are in place to prevent the spread to human food. Bustamante, a frequent contributor to radio and print, with no financial links to crop companies, described the alleged detection of three simultaneous transgenic events from two firms as "absurdly improbable" in his newspaper column and called for her claims to be peer reviewed.

"The main point of my criticism," Bustamante says, "was her going to the press instead of to her peers." After Bustamante refused to retract his statements, Gutiérrez filed a suit for defamation. She later presented her findings to the Peruvian Genetic Society of which she is president, but would not comment on the case, except to say that "you must use respect" in scientific discussion and that her critics have "polarized" the debate. Although Peruvian farmers already import transgenic products for animal feed, several interest groups oppose their widespread introduction, which they label a foreign intrusion and threat to Peruvian biodiversity.


African Green Revolution Needn't Be a Mirage
Gebisa Ejeta, Science 12 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5967, pp. 831 - 832

Africa missed out on the scientific breakthroughs that revolutionized agriculture in Asia. However, with locally developed and locally relevant technologies, a built-up human and institutional capacity, and supportive national policy and leadership, an African Green Revolution

Agricultural Biotechnology Can Help Solve Food Shortages in Africa

South Africa, February 8, 2010 - Africa missed out on Dr Norman Borlaug's Green Revolution thatlifted more than a billion people out of poverty, hunger and famine in Asia. Today, food consumption per capita has increased every where except in Africa, excluding South Africa.

According to the FAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation) more than 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa face starvation. Grain yields average 1.1t/ha compared to 4.8t/ha in SouthAfrica.


Science to Revolutionize Food Supply
China Daily, February 4, 2010

The foreseeable large-scale production of genetically modified (GM) rice in the country will alter hybrid rice plantation, a traditional way of breeding the main staple food for millions of Chinese, a senior hybrid rice expert said. "The approval of the safety of the pesticide-resistant rice is a breakthrough," said Cao Mengliang, a researcher on molecular rice at China's National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center. China's rice output is No 1 in the world, accounting for 33 percent. China currently produces approximately 500 million tons of rice annually. With its population expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2020, 630 million tons of rice will be needed.


India likely to have Golden Rice by 2013
Food and Beverage News, February 22, 2010

The Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said it was preparing to release the GM rice known as Golden Rice for commercial cultivation in India by 2013.

Biotechnology Based Sustainable Agriculture - Recommendations
International Life Sciences Institute - India;
International Conference on Biotechnology Based Sustainable Agriculture

ILSI-India and ILSI International Food Biotechnology Committee organized the International Conference on "Biotechnology Based Sustainable Agriculture" on December 19, 2009 in New Delhi. The Conference was cosponsored by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, GOI and Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Transgenic seed technology
began to transform India’s cotton industry in 2002. Genetically modified cotton acreage has increased three-fold since that year, and the lives of millions of Indian families have been improved as cotton farmers income has increased by $124 million (USD). Indian farmers today represent some of the world?s most rapid adopters of biotech crops.

India Says "No" to Bt Brinjal for Now
Narayanan Suresh, BioSpectrum, Feb 10, 2010

India will not get its first genetically modified (GM) food for at least in 2010. In a major decision, overruling a regulatory approval, Indian government has decided not to permit commercial cultivation of the country's first GM food product, a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) brinjal (aubergine) variety, developed by global agri giant Monsanto's Indian partner, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco).

India's minister for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, advanced his date with the decision on Bt brinjal by 24 hours and announced on Tuesday that Bt brinjal will not be released in the farms at least for another six months.

Full text of the Indian Minister of Environment
Bt Brinjal: Note by Ministry of Environment and Forests
Scientists Slam Key Study Behind Bt Brinjal Ban
Zia Haq, Hindustan Times, New Delhi , February 12, 2010

A vital study cited by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to justify his decision to disallow the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal in India is flawed, claim top European scientists.

While making his announcement on Tuesday, Ramesh had referred to the findings of France-based Caen University professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team, which had branded Bt brinjal - India's first genetically modified (GM) food crop - "unsafe". HT, in December 2008, had been the first to report on Séralini's study.

A number of scientists, including Montagu, are now planning to write to Indian politicians, refuting Séralini claims. "We want Indian politicians and the public to take a decision on sound scientific bases, not influenced by biased information. Neither nature nor human health are effected by BT," their soon-to-be-released letter says.

Bt Brinjal from Bangla, Philippines Might Come to India
Rediff Business, February 12, 2010

The environment ministry's moratorium on the commercial release of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) brinjal in India is unlikely to keep the genetically modified crop out of Indian kitchens.  It may creep in via Bangladesh and Philippines, according to A R Reddy, co-chair of Genetic Engineering Approval (now Appraisal) Committee that approved the vegetable for commercial use.


Independent Trial Results Available on GM Canola
The Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), supported by the National Variety Trials (NVT), has released the results of 150 canola trials across the country in 2009, including 15 containing GM canola. A report, available on the NVT website, outlines the performance of varieties in the GM canola trials and provides information on how to interpret the trial data. "GM canola is one more piece of technology available for grain growers to consider, and the NVT results provide one of a number of data sources to draw upon to help make decisions regarding its potential use," said Juan Juttner, manager at GRDC. More GM canola trials will be planted in 2010, including a greater number in Western Australia following the State Government's decision to lift its moratorium.

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News in Science

Scientists shed light on insulin activity

A British-Czech team of scientists has discovered how insulin interacts with cells in the human body. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the findings could give a major boost to researchers hoping to develop viable treatments to fight type I diabetes.

In Delhi Lab, World's Longest-Lasting Tomatoes
The tomatoes developed at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), New Delhi, can retain their firmness and texture for up to 45 days without refrigeration, compared with ordinary tomatoes that shrink and lose texture in about 15 days.

G.S. Mudur, Telegraph (India), Feb. 2, 2010

Global Soils threatened: EU, USA and China join forces

Scientists from Europe, USA and China have established a network of field research stations to study the valuable services that soils provide to humanity. The Soiltrec project will find out how to protect soil against the threats posed by climate change, and increasing food and energy demand from a growing human population. The project is coordinated by the University of Sheffield and brings together 15 partners including universities, research organisations and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.

Scientists sequence wild grass species

An international research team has successfully sequenced the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon, a grass species related to major cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats. Published in the journal Nature, the study's findings are part of the EU-funded AGRON-OMICS ('Arabidopsis growth network integrating omics technologies') project, which received EUR 12 million under the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' Thematic area of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Scientists reveal geographical link to MRSA
Researchers have long wondered about the geographic distribution of microbial pathogens, particularly because understanding their distribution would fuel development of strategies to reduce their transmission. Published in the PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine journal, new EU-funded research shows that the pathogen methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) makes its presence known in distinct geographical clusters across Europe.

Slime mould finds niche in human engineering
Researchers from Japan and the UK have discovered that slime mould can be used to give varied technological systems a boost. Published in the journal Science, the research is part of the MMCOMNET ('Measuring and modelling complex networks across domains') project, which received EUR 1.5 million under the 'New and emerging science and technology' (NEST) activity of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Scientists Grow Solar Cell Components in Tobacco Plants
Lisa Zyga, Discovery News, January 29, 2010

In a recent study, scientists from UC Berkeley led by Matt Francis have demonstrated how to program tobacco plants to take advantage of the efficient way that they collect sunlight by using modified tobacco mosaic virus.

In order for the chromophores to work, however, they must be spaced at a precise distance from one another - about two or three nanometers. A little closer or further apart, and the electric current will either be halted or the electrons will be very difficult to harvest. Thankfully, tobacco plant cells have evolved to space chromophores at this exact distance, lining them up in a long spiral hundreds of nanometers long. By exploiting this structure, the researchers could take advantage of billions of years of evolution to grow perfectly spaced strands of chromophores.

More information: Michel T. Dedeo, Karl E. Duderstadt, James M. Berger and Matthew B. Francis. "Nanoscale Protein Assemblies from a Circular Permutant of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus." Nano Lett., 2010, 10 (1), pp 181-186. doi:10.1021/nl9032395

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