Biotech Educational Resource
- maintained by Peggy Lemaux of the University of California-Berkeley
aims to provide 'science-based information to the public on issues related
to application of biotechnology to crops. For the scientific community,
educational tools and extensive database of pertinent scientific
literature are available to promote participation in the dialogue.
Teaching Aids for students and teachers are provided'
Thailand Has No Policy For Banning GMO Goods - Officials
Nitsara Srihanam 11-Apr-2001 Dow Jones
(Forwarded by "Hautea, Randy" )
BANGKOK -(Dow Jones)- Thailand has no policy for prohibiting imports of
raw material and goods linked to genetically modified organisms, despite
condemnation from the environmental watchdog group Greenpeace of
international food companies for testing the safety of GMO foods on Thai
consumers, senior government officials said Wednesday. A ban on such
imports might affect the country's trade activity, while contradicting
trade rules under the World Trade Organization, Boontipa Simaskul,
director-general of the Thai Commerce Ministry's Department of Business
Economics, told a press conference.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia said Tuesday that international companies
practice "double standards" on Thai consumers, whom it claimed are being
used as "guinea pigs" for testing the safety of GMO foods. It said
Thailand's supermarket shelves have been flooded with food items
containing GMO ingredients, with the manufacturers of the items not
labeling them as such. The same items in some other countries don't have
ingredients from GMOs, the group charged.
At least seven food items out of 30 purchased at random proved to contain
either transgenic soybean or corn, according to tests conducted for
Greenpeace by an independent laboratory in Hong Kong. The items included
products such as baby food, instant noodles and potato chips marketed
under some of the world's best-known brand names.
Boontipa said government authorities are considering introducing
compulsory labeling of all edible goods sold in the domestic market having
contents linked to GMOs. Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik said earlier
that labeling the GMO status on products is a measure to safeguard
domestic consumers from consuming GMO food unknowingly.
Karun Kittisataporn, director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade,
said labeling GMO food will create higher cost for the concerned products
and would affect trade flow for at least a short period. He said he
prefers the WTO to introduce international standards and regulations
covering GMOs which would not disrupt global trade. The Thai government
doesn't allow GMO seeds to be imported on a commercial basis or cultivated
but permits GMO seeds being brought in for research and experimental
GMO grains are allowed as raw materials in industries but under close
Launch of BIO-SCOPE (in May, Bio-Scope Experts wanted)
From: Klaus Ammann
The launch of our new website BIO-SCOPE is approaching quickly, it is
scheduled for May and until then we are in a test phase. For the test
phase we have already selected scientists and regulators from all fields
of biotechnology, they will have a close and hopefully critical look at
the new website structure - the website is only open to them in April and
will be - with corrections - be accessible for everybody beginning of May.
This call wants to make sure that a special feature of the Bio-Scope site
will be installed already in the test phase in order to test the
functionality of the feature. What we need within this structure are
experts willing to communicate and give feedbacks to the future users of
the website after it has been launched. For more details go to the
registration form, and if you want to know more about Bio-Scope, see below.
If you want to become an expert giving feedbacks to users or exclusively
to experts, please register under:
You want to know more about the website, so please go to:
Bio-Scope - Mission statement
An easily accessible infobase and an expert group on biotechnology are
both ready to answer your questions about environmental impact and food
safety in modern agriculture from genetic engineering to integrated and
Biology as a science has evolved into a powerful instrument, giving birth
to Biotechnology with all its rapidly developing fields of specialisation.
A growing part of the population starts to realize that Biotechnology will
affect many sectors of their own life. No wonder that the debate is of
growing public interest.
Mankind has already started thousands of years ago to change the course of
evolution. In particular, genetic engineering will speed up this process.
Wisely used, it will enhance food production and medicine. We need to be
well informed about the risks and benefits of the new technologies and we
should refrain from rejecting prematurely promising developments but at
the same time we must be able to take informed decisions about risk
management related to all kinds of agricultural strategies. This all melts
down to a better information management, so that in the end we will make
better use of the new technologies and ultimately integrate them into
traditional farming. Agriculture must contribute to the conservation of
biodiversity in multiple ways last but not least it must intensify
production by keeping up the important goals of sustainability and
This is why we think that Bio-Scope will fulfill an important mission: We
want to give the Internet community the chance to have easy access to
scientific information on all levels, from the lay people to the highly
educated experts. In order to achieve this we offer in Bio-Scope a variety
of electronic instruments, such as an infobase which can be accessed by
people with various degrees of education on biotechnology and agriculture.
The infobase can answer questions on various levels of scientific
understanding with carefully selected keywords and with simple or
sophisticated query logistics. It will also offer material for science
writers and teachers, who want to give science based information on modern
agriculture to their students and readers. Abstracts of many scientific
and important newspaper articles will be available in English, but also in
German and French, in order to facilitate access of lay people, who are
not familiar with scientific English.
We also offer with Bio-Scope a discussion forum including a bulletin board
where experts can exchange their views and plan for concerted action. It
will also be a place where everybody can learn about important meetings on
biotechnology and last but not least, get an unbiased and daily updated
account on important publications from newspapers to scientific
Bio-Scope will also be a place where experts are ready to answer questions
addressed to them, you can look for an expert all over the globe in a
specific knowledge sector, address your question to him and get an answer
from somebody who really knows whats going on in his own field of
specialisation. These experts have also a genuine interest in being
involved in the scientific and public debate on biotechnology and
For the time coming we hope to enhance with Bio-Scope as a whole and on
all levels risk and knowledge management on the subject of green gene
Bio-Scope will be linked to the new journal ëEnvironmental Biosafety
Researchí, which will be launched in May from Elsevier and the new
International Society of Biosafety Research. It is also intended to
exchange forum contributions between the two institutions, see
From: Tom Hoban
Subject: Data Access
There is an important letter asking for life science research publications
more open and widely available. This is something scientists
should sign and support. Go to the following website:
When Transgenes Wander, Should We Worry?
Norman C. Ellstrand; firstname.lastname@example.org Professor of Genetics,
University of California, Riverside, California; Plant Physiol. 2001;
EDITOR'S CHOICE April 2001, Vol. 125, pp. 1543-1545
It is hard to ignore the ongoing, often emotional, public discussion of
the impacts of the products of crop biotechnology. At one extreme of the
hype is self-rightoeus panic, and at the other is smug optimism. While the
controversy plays out in the press, dozens of scientific workshops,
symposia, and other meetings have been held to take a hard and thoughtful
look at potential risks of transgenic crops. Overshadowed by the loud and
contentious voices, a set of straightforward, scientifically based
concerns have evolved, dictating a cautious approach for creating the best
choices for agriculture's future.
Plant ecologists and population geneticists have looked to problems
associated with traditionally improved crops to anticipate possible risks
of transgenic crops. Those that have been most widely discussed are: (a)
crop-to-wild hybridization resulting in the evolution of increased
weediness in wild relatives, (b) evolution of pests that are resistant to
new strategies for their control, and (c) the impacts on nontarget species
in associated ecosystems (such as the unintentional poisoning of
beneficial insects; Snow and Palma, 1997; Hails, 2000).
Exploring each of these in detail would take a book, and such books exist
(e.g. Rissler and Mellon, 1996; Scientists' Working Group on Biosafety,
1998). However, let us consider the questions that have dominated my
research over the last decade to examine how concerns regarding engineered
crops have evolved. Those questions are: How likely is it that transgenes
will move into and establish in natural populations? And if transgenes do
move into wild populations, is there any cause for concern? It turns out
that experience and experiments with traditional crops provide a
tremendous amount of information for answering these questions.
The possibility of transgene flow from engineered crops to their wild
relatives with undesirable consequences was independently recognized by
several scientists (e.g. Colwell et al., 1985; Ellstrand, 1988; Dale,
1992). Among the first to publish the idea were two Calgene scientists,
writing: "The sexual transfer of genes to weedy species to create a more
persistent weed is probably the greatest environmental risk of planting a
new variety of crop species" (Goodman and Newell, 1985). The movement of
unwanted crop genes into the environment may pose more of a management
dilemma than unwanted chemicals. A single molecule of DDT
[1,1,1,-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane] remains a single molecule
or degrades, but a single crop allele has the opportunity to multiply
itself repeatedly through reproduction, which can frustrate attempts at
In the early 1990s, the general view was that hybridization between crops
and their wild relatives occurred infrequently, even when they were
growing in close proximity. This view was supported by the belief that the
discrete evolutionary pathways of domesticated crops and their wild
relatives would lead to increased reproductive isolation and was supported
by challenges breeders sometimes have in obtaining crop-wild hybrids.
Thus, my research group set out to measure spontaneous hybridization
between wild radish (Raphanus sativus), an important California weed, and
cultivated radish (the same species), an important California crop
(Klinger et al., 1991). We grew the crop as if we were multiplying
commercial seed and surrounded it with stands of weeds at varying
distances. When the plants flowered, pollinators did their job. We
harvested seeds from the weeds for progeny testing. We exploited an
allozyme allele (Lap-6) that was present in the crop and absent in the
weed to detect hybrids in the progeny of the weed. We found that every
weed seed analyzed at the shortest distance (1 m) was sired by the crop
and that a low level of hybridization was detected at the greatest
distance (1 km). It was clear, at least in this system, that crop alleles
could enter natural populations.
But could they persist? The general view at that time was that hybrids of
crops and weeds would always be handicapped by crop characteristics that
are agronomically favorable, but a detriment in the wild. We tested that
view by comparing the fitness of the hybrids created in our first
experiment with their non-hybrid siblings (Klinger and Ellstrand, 1994).
We grew them side by side under field conditions. The hybrids exhibited
the huge swollen root characteristic of the crop; the pure wild plants did
not. The two groups did not differ significantly in germination, survival,
or ability for their pollen to sire seed. However, the hybrids set about
15% more seed than the wild plants. In this system, hybrid vigor would
accelerate the spread crop alleles in a natural population.
When I took these results on the road, I was challenged by those who
questioned the generality of the results. Isn't radish probably an
exception? Radish is outcrossing and insect pollinated. Its wild relative
is the same species. What about a more important crop? What about a more
important weed? We decided to address all of those criticisms with a new
system. Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is one of the world's most important
crops. Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is one of the world's worst weeds.
The two are distinct species, even differing in chromosome number, and
sorghum is largely selfing and wind pollinated. Sorghum was about as
different from radish as you could get.
We conducted experiments with sorghum paralleling those with radish. We
found that sorghum and johnsongrass spontaneously hybridize, although at
rates lower than the radish system, and detected crop alleles in seed set
by wild plants growing 100 m from the crop (Arriola and Ellstrand, 1996).
The fitness of the hybrids was not significantly different from their wild
siblings (Arriola and Ellstrand, 1997). The results from our
sorghum-johnsongrass experiments were qualitatively the same as those from
our cultivated radish-wild radish experiments. Other labs have conducted
similar experiments on crops such as sunflower (Helianthus annus), rice
(Oryza sativa), canola (Brassica napus), and pearl millet (Pennisetum
glaveum; for review, see Ellstrand et al., 1999). In addition, descriptive
studies have repeatedly found crop-specific alleles in wild relatives when
the two grow in proximity (for review, see Ellstrand et al., 1999). The
data from such experiments and descriptive studies provide ample evidence
that spontaneous hybridization with wild relatives appears to be a general
feature of most of the world's important crops, from raspberries (Rubus
idaeus) to mushrooms (Aqaricus bisporus; compare with Ellstrand et al.,
When I gave seminars on the results of these experiments, I was met by a
new question: "If gene flow from crops to their wild relatives was a
problem, wouldn't it already have occurred in traditional systems?" A good
question. I conducted a thorough literature review to find out what was
known about the consequences of natural hybridization between the world's
most important crops and their wild relatives.
Crop-to-weed gene flow has created hardship through the appearance of new
or more difficult weeds. Hybridization with wild relatives has been
implicated in the evolution of more aggressive weeds for seven of the
world's 13 most important crops (Ellstrand et al., 1999). It is notable
that hybridization between sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima) and
sugar beet (B. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) has resulted in a new weed that
has devastated Europe's sugar production (Parker and Bartsch, 1996).
Crop-to-wild gene flow can create another problem. Hybridization between a
common species and a rare one can, under the appropriate conditions, send
the rare species to extinction in a few generations (e.g. Ellstrand and
Elam, 1993; Huxel, 1999; Wolf et al., in press). There are several cases
in which hybridization between a crop and its wild relatives has increased
the extinction risk for the wild taxon (e.g. Small, 1984). The role of
hybridization in the extinction of a wild subspecies of rice has been
especially well documented (Kiang et al., 1979). It is clear that gene
flow from crops to wild relatives has, on occasion, had undesirable
Are transgenic crops likely to be different from traditionally improved
crops? No, and that is not necessarily good news. It is clear that the
probability of problems due to gene flow from any individual cultivar is
extremely low, but when those problems are realized, they can be doozies.
Whether transgenic crops are more or less likely to create gene flow
problems will depend in part on their phenotypes. The majority of the
"first generation" transgenic crops have phenotypes that are apt to give a
weed a fitness boost, such as herbicide resistance or pest resistance.
Although a fitness boost in itself may not lead to increased weediness,
scientists engineering crops with such phenotypes should be mindful that
those phenotypes might have unwanted effects in natural populations. In
fact, I am aware of at least three cases in which scientists decided not
to engineer certain traits into certain crops because of such concerns.
The crops most likely to increase extinction risk by gene flow are those
that are planted in new locations that bring them into the vicinity of
wild relatives, thereby increasing the hybridization rate because of
proximity. For example, one can imagine a new variety that has increased
salinity tolerance that can now be planted within the range of an
endangered relative. It is clear that those scientists creating and
releasing new crops, transgenic or otherwise, can use the possibility of
gene flow to make choices about how to create the best possible products.
It is interesting that little has been written regarding the possible
downsides of within-crop gene flow involving transgenic plants. Yet a
couple of recent incidents suggest that crop-to-crop gene flow may result
in greater risks than crop-to-wild gene flow. The first is a report of
triple herbicide resistance in canola in Alberta, Canada (MacArthur,
2000). Volunteer canola plants were found to be resistant to the
herbicides Roundup (Monsanto, St. Louis), Liberty (Aventis, Crop Science,
Research Triangle Park, NC), and Pursuit (BASF, Research Triangle Park,
NC). It is clear that two different hybridization events were necessary to
account for these genotypes. It is interesting that the alleles for
resistance to Roundup and Liberty are transgenes, but the allele for
Pursuit resistance is the result of mutation breeding. Although these
volunteers can be managed with other herbicides, this report is
significant because, if correct, it illustrates that gene flow into wild
plants is not the only avenue for the evolution of plants that are
increasingly difficult to manage.
The second incident is a report of the Starlink Cry9C allele (the one
creating the fuss in Taco Bell's taco shells) appearing in a variety of
supposedly nonengineered corn (Callahan, 2000). Although unintentional
mixing of seeds during transport or storage may explain the contamination
of the traditional variety, inter-varietal crossing between seed
production fields could be just as likely. This news is significant
because, if correct, it illustrates how easy it is to lose track of
transgenes. Without careful checking, there are plenty of opportunities
for them to move from variety to variety. The field release of "third
generation" transgenic crops that are grown to produce pharmaceutical and
other industrial biochemicals will pose special challenges for containment
if we do not want those chemicals appearing in the human food supply.
The products of plant improvement are not absolutely safe, and we cannot
expect transgenic crops to be absolutely safe either. Recognition of that
fact suggests that creating something just because we are now able to do
so is an inadequate reason for embracing a new technology. If we have
advanced tools for creating novel agricultural products, we should use the
advanced knowledge from ecology and population genetics as well as social
sciences and humanities to make mindful choices about to how to create the
products that are best for humans and our environment.
Acknowledgments: This article was written while I was receiving support
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (grant no. 00-33120-9801). I thank
Tracy Kahn for her thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of the
manuscript and Maarten Chrispeels for his encouragement and patience.
* Arriola PE, Ellstrand NC (1996) Crop-to-weed gene flow in the genus
Sorghum (Poaceae): spontaneous interspecific hybridization between
johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense, and crop sorghum, S. bicolor. Am J Bot
* Arriola PE, Ellstrand NC (1997) Fitness of interspecific hybrids in the
genus Sorghum: persistence of crop genes in wild populations. Ecol Appl 7:
* Callahan P (2000) Genetically altered protein is found in still more
corn. Wall Street Journal 236: B5
* Colwell RE, Norse EA, Pimentel D, Sharples FE, Simberloff D (1985)
Genetic engineering in agriculture. Science 229: 111-112
* Dale PJ (1992) Spread of engineered genes to wild relatives. Plant
Physiol 100: 13-15
* Ellstrand NC (1988) Pollen as a vehicle for the escape of engineered
genes? In J Hodgson, AM Sugden, eds, Planned Release of Genetically
Engineered Organisms. Elsevier, Cambridge, UK, pp S30-S32
* Ellstrand NC, Elam DR (1993) Population genetic consequences of small
population size: implications for plant conservation. Annu Rev Ecol Syst
* Ellstrand NC, Prentice HC, Hancock JF (1999) Gene flow and introgression
from domesticated plants into their wild relatives. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 30:
* Goodman RM, Newell N (1985) Genetic engineering of plants for herbicide
resistance: status and prospects. In HO Halvorson, D Pramer, M Rogul, eds,
Engineered Organisms in the Environment: Scientific Issues. American
Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC, pp 47-53
* Hails RS (2000) Genetically modified plants: the debate continues.
Trends Ecol Evol 15: 14-18
* Huxel GR (1999) Rapid displacement of native species by invasive
species: effect of hybridization. Biol Conserv 89: 143-152
* Kiang YT, Antonovics J, Wu L (1979) The extinction of wild rice (Oryza
perennis formosana) in Taiwan. Jour Asian Ecol 1: 1-9
* Klinger T, Elam DR, Ellstrand NC (1991) Radish as a model system for the
study of engineered gene escape rates via crop-weed mating. Conserv Biol
* Klinger T, Ellstrand NC (1994) Engineered genes in wild populations:
fitness of weed-crop hybrids of radish, Raphanus sativus L. Ecol Appl 4:
* MacArthur M (2000) Triple-resistant canola weeds found in Alberta. The
(February 10, 2000)
* Parker IM, Bartsch D (1996) Recent advances in ecological biosafety
research on the risks of transgenic plants: a transcontinental
perspective. In J Tomiuk, K Wohrmann, A Sentker, eds, Transgenic
Organisms: Biological and Social Implications. Birkhauser Verlag, Basel,
* Rissler J, Mellon M (1996) The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops. The
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
* Scientists' Working Group on Biosafety (1998) Manual for Assessing
Ecological and Human Health Effects of Genetically Engineered Organisms,
Part One: Introductory Materials and Supporting Text for Flowcharts, and
Part Two: Flowcharts and Worksheets. The Edmonds Institute, Edmonds, WA
* Small E (1984) Hybridization in the domesticated-weed-wild complex. In
WF Grant, ed, Plant Biosystematics. Academic Press, Toronto, pp 195-210
* Snow AA, Palma P (1997) Commercialization of transgenic plants:
potential ecological risks. BioScience 47: 86-96
*Wolf DE, Takebayashi N, Rieseberg L H (2001) Predicting the risk of
extinction through hybridization. Conserv Biol (in press)
Plant Biotechnology 2002 and Beyond
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Orlando, Florida; June 23-28, 2002
The 10th International Association for Plant Tissue Culture &
Biotechnology (IAPTC&B) Congress is being planned as a major
international event. In partnership with academia and industry, it will
showcase and celebrate the science, technology, and products of plant
- An outstanding, world-class scientific program is being developed and
will feature plenary lectures, symposia, workshops, and posters on the
latest developments and issues in modern plant tissue culture and
Fellowships for Graduate Students and Post-doctoral Associates - The
IAPTC&B will provide a limited number of fellowships for young scientists,
students, post-docs, and participants from developing countries.
Fellowships will be awarded based on the quality of submitted abstracts.
Officers: Indra K. Vasil (USA) - IAPTC&B President (e-mail:
David W. Altman (USA) - IAPTC&B Secretary-Treasurer (e-mail:
Important Deadlines: Fellowship Opportunities – November 1, 2001;
Early-Bird Registration – January 15, 2002; Advance Registration – May 24,
2002; Hotel Registration – May 24, 2002
For registration, abstract, housing, and fellowship information, go to our
web site at http://www.sivb.org
For further information about the IAPTC&B and the 10th IAPTC&B Congress,
visit our web site: http://www.hos.ufl.edu/iaptcb
To receive future mailings for the 10th IAPTC&B Congress, please contact
the IAPTC&B Congress:
Society for In Vitro Biology; 9315 Largo Drive, West, Suite 255; Largo, MD
20774 USA; Tel: (301) 324-5054 or 1-800-741-7476 (USA/Canada); Fax: (301)
324-5057; E-mail: email@example.com
4th Biotechnology Roundtable: Assessing the Impact of the Biosafety
May 10, 2001 - Washington Court Hotel, Washington, DC
(From: "Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH"
The Roundtable will once again bring leading scientists, lawyers, and
other stakeholders together for an interdisciplinary discussion of science
and law in search of 'win-win' options to the complex issues surrounding
supporting approval of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Discussions
will include the impact of new international rules regulating GMOs,
imports of which are regulated as „living modified organisms ( LMOs )
under the newly approved Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (an addendum to
the Convention on Biological Diversity). An emerging '„precautionary
approach' to approval requirements in overseas trading partners should
lead manufacturers of LMOs (e.g., seeds, aquaculture fish, trees etc.) to
plan well in advance for overseas approvals for crops entering the U.S.
marketplace. Seed companies, growers and the entire chain of agricultural
commerce will need to implement "identity preservation" for crops and
lines of communication that create an interdependent marketplace.
Overseas, countries will need to develop the capacity to expedite
approvals of seed and commodities imports to avoid massive disruptions in
U.S. trade. The legal issues raised by this quest for harmonized
international standards and the potential impact of the biosafety protocol
will continue to perplex industry, attorneys, policymakers and other
stakeholders for many years to come.
After nearly four years of intense negotiations, the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety ( the Biosafety Protocol ) was adopted in the early hours of
January 29, 2000 in Montreal. Its stated goal: To amend the United
Nations Convention on Biological Diversity so as to ensure an adequate
level of protection from transboundary movements of living modified
organisms (LMOs) produced through modern biotechnology that may have an
adverse impact on biological diversity. The European Union has
interpreted the protocol as applying to food safety, and directing an
effort to impose „traceability‰ requirements for commodities shipments
that may create a system analogous to hazardous waste exports.
With billions of dollars of U.S. trade at stake, a well-organized industry
coalition provided support to the U.S. delegation on many of the technical
details of debate. While industry was pleased with the outcome of the
final agreement, there is still much work to do if the success will be
realized for agricultural biotechnology. The rigorous debate between the
U.S. and its trading partners will continue for many years to come.
Who Should Attend
Any professional involved in agriculture, food or bioprospecting lawyers,
policy makers, farmers, plant breeders, environmental managers,
consultants, and corporate counsel will find the discussion relevant to
their practices and livelihoods.
ƒ The pros and cons of treating genetic engineering as a process that
create unique risks and unique legal standards.
ƒ The use of information technology to expedite risk assessment and
liability risk management.
ƒ Balancing developing country interests in environmental protection and
ƒ Legal and scientific methods for protecting wild relatives of common
crops and native plant varieties from displacement by genetically modified
ƒ Risk management for sales of „living modified organisms‰ (LMOs) not yet
approved in major overseas markets.
We request that all registrations be made in advance by completing the
attached form and mailing it with your payment to the ABA Section of
Environment, Energy, and Resources, Attn.: Biotechnology Roundtable, 750
N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611. The deadline for receipt of early
bird registration is April 13, 2001. All registrations postmarked after
April 13, 2001 must include an additional $50 for processing. The final
cutoff date for all registrations (early-bird and late) is April 25, 2001.
Should you miss the deadline and need to register onsite, please call
312/988-5724 to assure that space is available.
Scientists Forecast Agriculturally Driven Global Environmental Change,
Liken Its Magnitude To Climate Change
April 12, 2001 University of Minnesota press release (From Agnet)
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL--If current trends in the growth of global
population and wealth continue, the planet will lose a billion hectares of
natural ecosystems--an area the size of the United States--to agriculture
by the year 2050, according to projections by an international team of
scientists led by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman. The
work, to be published in the April 13 issue of Science, examines
nonclimatic global environmental impacts of agricultural expansion, such
as increased nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticide deposition and demand for
irrigation water, which will accompany rises in population and per capita
"Environmental impacts of agriculture will be as great as or greater than
the impacts of climate change," said Tilman, who holds the McKnight
President Endowed Chair in Ecology at the university. While acknowledging
that the forecasts are not predictions and that shifts in technology,
environmental regulations, human behavior and other factors could throw
off the projections, Tilman said he and his colleagues aimed to keep their
estimates conservative. Using four statistical techniques, they made four
forecasts of each variable. Only the mean value of each forecast is
Basing their forecasts on agricultural uses of nitrogen, phosphorus and
irrigation brought about by the Green Revolution, the authors forecast
that if past trends continue, global nitrogen fertilization will be 1.6
times present amounts by 2020 and 2.7 times present amounts by 2050. For
phosphorus, the numbers are 1.4 times (2020) and 2.4 times (2050).
Irrigated land would increase to 1.3 times present area (2020) and 1.9
times (2050). Nitrogen and phosphorus leakage from farms is already a
problem in many areas, partly because 70 percent of harvested crops are
fed to livestock, but little animal waste is treated for nitrogen or
phosphorus removal. Irrigation not only consumes fresh water, but causes
salt and nutrient loading to downstream bodies of water. Phosphorus leads
to blooms of algae and resultant degradation of freshwater lakes and
streams. Projected pesticide use has risen for the last 40 years and would
be 1.7 times present use (2020) and 2.7 times present use (2050),
according to the scientists' calculations.
Most of the projected billion-hectare increase in cropland and pastureland
is expected to occur in developing countries, predominantly Latin America
and sub-Saharan Africa. The conversion to agriculture would likely come at
the expense of approximately a third of remaining tropical and temperate
forests, savannas and grasslands. Should that happen, these ecosystems
would no longer be able to store carbon, produce oxygen and water (through
photosynthesis and transpiration, respectively) or perform other
"ecosystem services" on nearly the scale they do now. Losses of these
ecosystems to agriculture would be added to losses expected from urban and
suburban development, roads and other human expansions, and species
extinction would be an inevitable consequence of habitat destruction.
Driving the agricultural expansion is not only population growth, but a
growth in wealth, which is associated with a higher demand for meat. The
authors foresee a 50 percent growth in population by 2050, accompanied by
a doubling in demand for food.
A bright spot is that these projections are based on current practices and
trends, and those could change. Comprehensive land-use planning could
soften some of the impacts. For example, planting of cover crops on fallow
land and strips of vegetation to intercept nutrients and pesticide runoff
between farmland and drainage areas could mitigate some impacts. Also,
advances in and widespread use of precision agriculture techniques could
reduce amounts of fertilizer and pesticide applied to fields. Better ways
to contain pests and to treat livestock waste are also needed. But the
scale of change will be so great, the scientists said, that major
international efforts will be required to supply the technologies and
policies necessary for ecologically sustainable agriculture.
"Agriculture is the last major unregulated source of environmental
pollution, and it will increase two- to three-fold in the next 50 years,"
said Tilman. "If this expansion is done in the way it's been done for the
last 50 years, we'll have irreversible environmental damage. But if we
change, we can turn the corner." Working with Tilman were colleagues from
the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton University; the Woods
Hole Marine Biological Laboratory; the University of Alberta; Duke
University; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and the University of
Minnesota. The work was funded by the National Center for Ecological
Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
which is supported by the National Science Foundation.
From: "David J. Heaf"
Subject: Ifgene workshop announcement
Against a backgound of the Swiss constitution and draft 'Gen-Lex' making
explicit the concept of the intrinsic value of living things, we shall
look at the meaning and implications of this for our dealings with plants.
Contributions will be made by a biologist, a bioethicist, a philosopher, a
legislator, a food processor, a food retailer, a plant breeder, an
ecologist and a plant geneticist. The workshop will include guided
observation of plants as well as ample time for discussion.
Biotech meet in India
India is now on the threshold of a biotech revolution. With an estimated
market size of US $4.5 billion in 2010, India's biotech market is all set
to compete in the big league. The Government of Karnataka as well as other
local institutions and industries focused on biotech are hosting seminars,
trade shows, conferences, symposiums and other events to discuss
path-breaking technologies and policies that will take the State right
into the biotech revolution.
Bio Event of the Millennium - BANGALOREBIO.COM 2001: - Date: 15-17 April
Contacts for More Information: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
A live web telecast from the April 15th to the 17th.
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Re: 50% goverment payments
I realize that I did not make the US farm program very clear in my last
post. I am not sure I can explain it but I can clear up some points on it
and put a more realistic spin on it than the goverment is paying the
farmer 50% of everything he makes. The did do that on cotton, wheat and
rice in 1999 but that is the only time and the only crops. There is also
some tricky language when the USDA says "CASH" income. That mean items
that are sold. Very few farmers sell crops in years of low prices when
they had no operating to lock in a good price. They either store them on
the farm or put them in the goverment loan so they may not be showing up
as cash income.
The Comparison of Government Payments and Market Prices, 1996-2000 is at
http://www.couger.com/gpay.txt I had to put it there so it doesn't loose
the formatting. Corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans and rice make up almost all
the payments. There are 4 other feed grains that have price support that I
don't have figures for but they don't make up much of the total.
The estimate for 2000 government payments are 23 billion that will
represent 42% net farm cash income. The key word is "cash" income. The
USDA does not consider crop loans income until they are redeemed and sold.
I don't know how much went in the goverment loan but there is 33 billion
dollars worth of something there. So that could skew the income figures a
good deal. While the USDA does not consider a crop sold when it goes in
the loan many farmers do consider it sold for tax purposes. When a 23
billion subsidy is put up against a 194.5 billion total farm sales
estimate for 2000 it is a far cry from 42%. It comes out to 12% which is
still way too much.
My data came from these sources and some calls to the USDA. The table came
from a private source and is consistent with the data from USDA budget.
Farm Economic Relief: Issues and Options for Congress
USDA 2000 Budget Summary
These reports are some what misleading because the only consider farmers
incomes from subsidized crops. In reality almost no farmers farm only
subsidized crops. They have a much more diverse operations. If farmers
only farmed what the USDA subsidized farms would gross 54 billion insted
of 194.5 billion so only 28% of framing is subsidized by these figures.
If you find this confusing welcome to the club so does everyone that has
to live with it.
I couldn't find the article that gave the 50% figure I found
http://www.cnie.org/nle/ag-76.html that gave 42% as the figure for
goverment payment of net income in 2000 and I went through the USDA's
budget and for 1999 and 2000 at
http://www.usda.gov/agency/obpa/Budget-Summary/2000/text.html and found
that came up with figures that were simular. So I won't argue over 50%
being a reasonable number for goverment payment as a percentage of net
income probably in 1999.