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August 27, 2001


World Food Prize, Mystery DNA, GM Elm Trees, Precautionary Principle,


Today's Topics:

* Per Pinstrup-Andersen wins the World Food Prize
* "Mystery DNA" in RR SOy
* Farmer: Biotech Makes Plain Good Business Sense
* British Scientists Create a Genetically Modified Elm
* View EPA Data on Monarchs and BT Pollen
* Biotech Foods No More Risky Than Conventional Foods
* Precautionary Principle Supports the Wise Use of GM foods
* Responses to Drew Kershen's Cross-breeding: Comparing transgenic crops and non-transgenic crops



Congratulations to Per Pinstrup-Andersen for winning the World Food Prize!!


IFPRI Director General Wins 2001 World Food Prize

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Director General of the International Food Policy
Research Institute, Washington, D.C., has been selected to receive the 2001
World Food Prize on October 18, 2001. The prize was conceived by Nobel prize
winner Norman Borlaug as the equivalent of a Nobel prize for food. This
award recognizes a lifetime of achievements in food policy research to help
poor and malnourished people in developing countries. For nearly a decade,
Per Pinstrup-Andersen has led IFPRI. Under his leadership, the Institute has
become the world's leading think-tank on hunger issues, contributing
groundbreaking research on a number of food policy fronts.

For a full account go to http://www.ifpri.cgiar.org

Modern Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture: Risks and Opportunities for the Poor
By P. Pinstrup-Andersen and M. J. Cohen


August 28, 2001

World Bank and CGIAR Congratulate World Food Prize Laureate

The World Bank and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) congratulate Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a Future Harvest Center, on being named the 2001 World Food Prize Laureate.

The prize will be presented at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, Iowa, on October 18, 2001. It recognizes Dr. Pinstrup-Andersen's research, which has helped to modify and refocus food subsidy programs in developing countries, thereby increasing the amount of food available to poor people. "This prestigious award is testimony to Per's achievement of excellence in addressing the problems of hunger and food insecurity in the world," said Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President and Chairman of the CGIAR. "His leadership has helped shape the thinking of a new generation of food policymakers around the world and under his direction, IFPRI has become one of the world's premier food policy research organizations." The CGIAR, an informal association of 58 public and private members, supports a system of 16 international agricultural research centers around the world, including IFPRI, known as Future Harvest Centers. The World Bank is a founder and co-sponsor of the CGIAR.

"Per is an outstanding economist whose work has addressed one of the most compelling moral dilemmas of our time: the persistence of hunger in a world of plenty," said Francisco Reifschneider, Director, CGIAR. "The award is a fitting tribute to him, and to IFPRI, for innovative contributions in addressing complex issues of food security, intellectual property rights, and subsidies." IFPRI's research has contributed significantly to the current revision of the World Bank's rural development strategy, particularly through their IMPACT model, a cornerstone of the 2020 Vision Initiative inaugurated by Dr. Pinstrup-Andersen that projects world food supply and demand, trade, prices, and food security to the year 2020.

"Per's intellectual leadership in the field of food security is widely acknowledged," adds Robert L. Thompson, World Bank Director of Rural Development. "He is a man of vision whose work has been instrumental in improving public food policies that benefit the poor and hungry around the world."

For more information on IFPRI, please visit www.ifpri.org The CGIAR website is www.cgiar.org The World Food Prize Foundation is located in Des Moines, Iowa; see www.worldfoodprize.org For more on the World Bank's rural development work, see http://www.worldbank.org/rural/


Kristyn Ebro
Tel: +1 202 458 2736
e-mail: kebro@worldbank.org

Sarwat Hussain
Tel: +1 202 473 5690
e-mail: shussain@worldbank.org

Judith Pim of The World Food Prize, 515-245-3796

Michael Rubinstein of the International Food Policy Research Institute, 202-862-5670


Bogus Biotech Hype
“Mystery DNA” doesn’t amount to a pile of (soy) beans.

National Review Online
By Michael Fumento
August 28, 2001 8:50 a.m.

Here's how Greenpeace's dual anti-biotech strategy works.

First, if you throw enough "darts," one may eventually stick.

Alternatively, the collective weight of one false scare after another could send agricultural biotech the way of nuclear power.

Neither strategy will probably prevail in North America, but they do wreak havoc. And they may have a devastating impact in a developing world that desperately needs biotech foods and as yet lacks our scientific sophistication.

One such dart was that biotech corn kills monarch butterflies. Okay, so it doesn't. But Greenpeace still uses the claim as an opportunity to prance around in wings and antennae.

Another was that Starlink corn intended only for animal consumption but found its way into human food in minuscule quantities could cause devastating allergies. Okay, so it doesn't. But the charge did give agricultural companies and farmers a severe sinus headache.

And now another dart, this one tossed with the help of the New York Times. "Mystery DNA Is Discovered in Soybeans by Scientists," ran the headline.

Then Greenpeace pounced.

Invoking yet again Mary Shelley's horribly overexploited character, the group declared, "Like Dr. Frankenstein, Monsanto has created a new life form but doesn't know what will happen when it's turned loose in the world."

The soybeans in question are called "Roundup Ready." They have a bacterium gene spliced into them, allowing the plants to resist the herbicide glyphosate, sold by Monsanto under the brand name "Roundup."

This allows Roundup to be sprayed over weeds and crops alike, instead of trying to zap just the weeds, saving farmers time and fuel and — according to some studies — herbicide as well.

That may be why Roundup Ready soybeans are the most popular biotech crop in the world, accounting for over two-thirds of total U.S. soy acreage.

But what's this "mystery"?

The New York Times piece and the Greenpeace allegations were responses to an article just published by Belgian scientists in the print edition of European Journal of Food Research Technology.

The Belgians noted that the soybeans contain a bit of what some reporters labeled "alien" genetic material. More precisely, this was soybean DNA that was not described at the time Monsanto received approval to sell the seeds.

According to Monsanto, the heretofore unknown sequence was 534 DNA "letters" out of a soybean genome of about 1.5 billion letters, or the rough equivalent of a cockroach burp in the Taj Mahal.

Remarkably, Monsanto made these allegedly "startling new" findings available to U.K. regulators 14 months ago. They were then posted on the Internet and a British newspaper, The Sunday Herald, immediately wrote about them. Health agencies of both the U.K. and Belgium reviewed them and declared they amounted to nothing.

Even the European Journal of Food Research Technology article appeared in electronic format over two months ago, giving Greenpeace plenty of time to evaluate the findings and prepare its disinformation campaign.

But the chief Belgian researcher, Marc De Loose, "Rejected calls by environmental group Greenpeace International to suspend safety approval of the product," according to the Associated Press. Said De Loose, "There is no scientific data to support this idea" that the soybeans could pose any harm.

Indeed, right after the New York Times piece appeared, the European Commission in Brussels also declared there was no reason to believe the soybeans were unsafe.

This was an easy call, explains Washington State University toxicologist Allan Felsot, because "This DNA contains no functional genes and therefore can't affect a plant one way or another."

Yet even without that, he says, the safety of the soybeans would have been assured.

"All the safety testing in the early 1990s included the so-called 'mystery DNA,' even if Monsanto didn't know it was there," he says. "Plants are tested as a whole, not bit by bit. The fact that you didn't know something was in there doesn't change its safety."

Adds Felsot, "Greenpeace is acting like somebody who suddenly discovers their car has a heretofore unknown part, and tears his hair out over the possibility it therefore might not run anymore. This notwithstanding that they've already driven it over 200,000 miles."

One of the possibilities for the previously unknown sequence, explained De Loose, "is that during the integration of the [herbicide-resistance gene], there are some rearrangements at the site of insertion."

The "alien DNA" is not from the Angry Red Planet or a "galaxy far, far away" and it doesn't want to be taken to our leader. Rather is a slight mixing of soybean material already present.

Similar rearrangements occur with conventional breeding techniques.

Monsanto's "wrongdoing" was in not building a time machine to bring back a test that wouldn't be available for several more years.

Thus, while the opening line of the New York Times article was that this latest development (or non-development, as it were) is "casting some doubts on the biotechnology industry's assertions that its technology is precise and predictable," the opposite is true.

It demonstrates that while DNA-detection technology was excellent several years ago, it continues to improve.

This makes it progressively easier for Monsanto and other companies to give us better biotech foods with the same safety assurance.

If knowing genetic sequences is indicative of food safety, then biotech food is inherently safer than non-biotech food since we know more about the sequences of biotech crops than non-biotech crops.

If it's mystery DNA you're worried about, you might consider trying to eat only genetically engineered food.

But a better option may be to start ignoring crop pests like Greenpeace, who insist that we apply double standards to biotech foods and make demands of them for which other foods couldn't possibly comply.

Op-Ed: The Keys Are In The DNA: The 'Mystery' DNA That Wasn't

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
By Roy Fuchs
August 26, 2001

When I was growing up on a farm, my dad used to tell my brothers and me that "common sense goes a long way." It still does.

Recently, one of Monsanto's biotechnology products -- Roundup Ready soybeans -- made headlines. The stories claimed that scientists found "unexpected" DNA in the genetically modified beans. The whole issue could have used a strong dose of the common sense of which my dad spoke.

Monsanto developed Roundup Ready soybeans in the early 1990s. Before we could market these soybeans, we had to conduct a thorough safety assessment, spanning several years and hundreds of tests and thousands of analyses.

We provided all of this information and data to regulatory agencies around the world. More than five years ago, these regulatory authorities consistently reached the same conclusion--these soybeans are as safe and nutritious
as conventional soybeans.

Scientists at Monsanto and other laboratories have continued to study these soybeans. They share the results with other scientists and regulatory authorities. Recently, a team of scientists at the Centre for Agricultural
Research in Belgium published information on the soybean DNA. The Belgian scientists used newly developed genomic tools to sequence the DNA adjacent to the "Roundup Ready" gene -- the gene Monsanto inserted to allow the plants
to tolerate Roundup herbicide. The Belgian scientists provided this information to regulatory agencies last year and published it on the Internet this past May.

This information isn't new. Monsanto scientists shared essentially the same information with regulatory agencies around the world last year as well as with the Belgian research team.

These regulatory agencies concluded that this information -- while it helps us better describe the DNA that is present -- does not affect the safety of Roundup Ready soybeans.

But the story does not end there.

Within hours of the Belgian scientists publishing their information in hard copy last week, anti-biotechnology activists orchestrated a major media campaign. The activists portrayed the information as something "new"
and "unknown;" as something that should raise safety questions about this product and all of biotechnology. They promoted their allegations in countries that are not supportive of biotechnology and called for a ban on these soybeans. The activists used terms like "mystery DNA" to question safety and provoke fear.

While some media went with the activists' story, others contacted the senior Belgian researcher to get the real story. It became clear, as we and regulators already knew, that the results published by the Belgian researchers did
not identify any "mystery DNA," but had only better described the DNA in the Roundup Ready soybean plant that was rearranged during the natural process of inserting DNA into plants.

The DNA reported in the Belgian paper is neither new nor mysterious. It's just soybean DNA.

The senior author of the Belgian paper chastised the anti-biotechnology group for misinterpreting his research. As noted in a subsequent article, "A Belgian scientist said . . . his research into gene-spliced soybeans, the
world's most widely grown genetically modified crop, had not cast doubt on their safety, dismissing concerns by green groups."

A spokesperson from the European Commission reiterated the position of the regulatory authorities telling a news briefing that, "From a scientific point of view there is no reason to say the product is unsafe."

Within two days of the publication and anti-biotechnology media campaign, the story had come and gone. However, this story may have unfortunately added to the confusion of the everyday consumer or farmer who does not understand the
nuances of this complex scientific issue. Most people only heard the clever terms used by activists to try to capture headlines.

When an "issue" comes and goes as quickly as this one did, it must truly lack real substance.

This brings me back to dad's saying "common sense goes a long way." This is never more true that in trying to discern hype from fact.

Roy L. Fuchs, a senior scientist at Monsanto Company's Chesterfield Research facility, led the team that conducted the thousands of safety tests prior to obtaining regulatory approval for Roundup Ready soybeans.

Letter: Those Seeds Of Doubt

The Guardian
August 27, 2001
By Tony Combes

Readers may have been puzzled why George Monbiot conceded that the war against crop biotechnology cannot ultimately be won (Market enforcers, August 21). One reason may be the failure of his colleagues to find evidence of harm from
the crops and foods in more than five years of widespread use and many more of safety-testing.

Monbiot is simply wrong on the facts of the case involving Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who claims that GM rape seed blew on to his fields from passing lorries and other farms. Evidence in court showed that GM seed comprised 95-98% of the bulk grain sent by Schmeiser Enterprises for
seed-processing. This could not have occurred through cross-pollination or spillage. The court also heard that 20,000 other Canadian farmers choose to buy GM seed for the benefits it brings them and the environment, including
lower costs and less herbicide used. But the facts never did make for a good story.

Tony Combes
Director of corporate affairs, Monsanto UK


Lynn Jensen: Biotech Makes Plain Good Business Sense

To some farmers it's not enough to grow something. It's also got to make sense.

Lynn Jensen grows corn and soybeans. As a third generation farmer in eastern South Dakota, he could have just kept his head low and remained anonymous. But after the death of his father in a farming accident ten years ago, he decided that he wanted to do more.

Today Jensen is still a farmer, but as the chairman and past president of the National Corn Growers Association, he's pushing the boundaries of farming. On about 3,000 acres near his hometown of Lake Preston, South Dakota, Jensen not only grows corn by conventional methods, he also grows genetically modified (GM) corn and organic corn.

"I've got a little bit of everything," Jensen says. And it's all there because it amounts to just plain good business sense.

The GM corn he grows on 60 percent of his acreage is called Bt corn. It contains a gene borrowed from a bacterium, which creates a chemical that acts as its own insecticide. Jensen uses it to fight corn borers—caterpillars capable of decimating a corn crop. He prefers Bt corn to the alternative, which is spraying his fields with highly toxic pesticides that kill all insects.

"Corn borer insecticide was one of our most toxic chemicals out there," Jensen says. "It kills everything. It also poses threats to shallow groundwater supplies. Bt corn, on the other hand, is safer and specific: it kills only corn borers," Jensen says.

Inevitably, of course, there is no magic bullet and there are some drawbacks to Bt corn, Jensen says. One is the possibility that Bt corn exposes corn borers to Bt toxin too often and could cause the insects to evolve and become resistant. The federal government requires Bt corn growers to reserve 20 percent of their acreage as a Bt-free zone in order to reduce this possibility. That Bt-free zone is a practical way of protecting Bt-sensitive corn borers from potential Bt toxins while additional studies on this newly identified problem are completed. Another tactic Jensen uses to keep the corn borers at bay is rotating corn crops with soybeans and wheat, thereby reducing the year-to-year exposure of corn borers to Bt, which also gives the local corn borers less chance of developing resistance.

In addition to resistance issues, Jensen notes one other concern with Bt corn: the possibility it will contaminate conventional corn. Unlike plants pollinated by insects or other animals, corn is wind-pollinated: pollen blows from one plant to another to fertilize ears and produce the kernels. Keeping GM pollen from pollinating conventional corn is something farmers have to be very diligent about, says Jensen. If they're not, they could face enormous troubles similar to what occurred last summer when StarLink found its way into taco shells—a use for which it is not yet approved. "It's going to open up some legal issues," says Jensen.

The pollen drift issue is particularly volatile because a great deal of the U.S. corn production is for export and GM crops are particularly unpopular in Europe—one of the leading corn importers. That volatility is one of the reasons Jensen also grows conventional corn and soybeans. "Farming is a pretty mature business," he says. "You can either be diversified and hope something hits, or be specific and hope the market for it holds. There are certain times when the organic market is better, so I grow organic corn too. It's just good business sense."

Despite the concerns, Jensen is optimistic about agricultural biotechnology. He's looking forward to the next wave in GM crops—those producing not only insect resistance, but also new products. He points to Golden Rice—which is modified to contain vitamin A—as an example of how altering a plant's genes adds value to a plant. There are also companies working to replace petrochemicals with fuel produced by GM plants, Jensen says.

There are big things ahead for GM plants, he says. But it'll only happen if the common sense, practical business of farming is taken into account. Jensen says farmers must be an active, integral part of the process.


Scientists create a genetically modified elm

The Independent
By Paul Kelbie, Scotland Correspondent
28 August 2001

Dutch elm disease, which has destroyed more than 20 million trees across Britain in the past 30 years, may have met its own nemesis.

Scientists at the University of Abertay in Dundee have created a batch of genetically modified elms that are resistant to the fungus, which brings certain death to the hardwood trees. They claim that their "ground-breaking initiative" could lead to elm trees being re-introduced into their native habitats.

"This is an example of environmentally friendly biotechnology," said Professor Kevan Gartland, the head of molecular and life sciences at the university. "This work could help tackle damaged landscapes and ecosystems blighted by tree fungal diseases, such as Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight, throughout the world."

Elm trees, of which more than 40 species exist, first appeared about 40 million years ago and can live for up to 300 years. But since 1970, more than 20 million have fallen victim in the UK while, over the past 70 years, more than 70 per cent of mature elms in the United States have died.

However, a team of eight scientists at Abertay has found that anti-fungal genes transferred into the elm genome could give the trees the capacity to fight off the killer fungus.

The fungus that causes Dutch elm disease is carried by elm bark beetles which, as their name suggests, breed under a tree's outer bark. The fungus quickly spreads through the tree, preventing water and nutrients from reaching the branches and leaves. Once this diseased stage takes hold, trees can die within weeks. So far, experiments to try to halt the disease using traditional plant-breeding methods have failed.

"The Abertay discovery marks the culmination of a decade's work in the forest biotechnology area," Professor Gartland said. "It's all down to hard work, perseverance and a bit of ingenuity. We used two methods to transfer the genes into the elm genome: through the use of agrobacterium – nature's own genetic engineer – and by firing minute DNA-coated ball-bearings at elm-leaf pieces using a helium-powered gun. Both methods produced good results; some of the trees have reached one and a half metres in height already."

As yet, all of Abertay's genetically modified English elms have been cultivated under strict laboratory conditions and have not been released into the environment. Professor Gartland said: "When the time is right, the trees will undergo rigorous testing in an effort to establish their resistance to Ophiostoma-novo-ulmi, the Dutch elm disease fungus."

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission, which has been funding the project since 1992, said yesterday: "Much of the devastation over the last 30 years has been caused by a mutated and highly virulent strain of Dutch elm disease which we believe orginated in north America.

"We are obviously watching the Abertay project with great interest but there is no possibility as yet of these trees being released into the environment. Our policy is that nothing should be released into the ecosystem until we are satisfied that it is safe to do so and that it would be a significant advantage to forestry. At the same time, we don't want to close our minds to the advantages that this technology could bring."



The executive summary of the data call-in response (275k PDF 8pages) submitted to EPA by the Bt corn registrant group called the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC) is provided on this web site.

Although most of the ABSTC submissions were submitted without any restrictions on its subsequent release to the public, ABSTC still claims 27 pages of the submissions as "confidential business information" (CBI). EPA is currently in the process of making a final determination under regulations found in 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 2 as to whether or not the information claimed as CBI is entitled to such protection. Meanwhile, the portion of the data call-in response not claimed as CBI is available in the public docket in Crystal City, VA in docket number OPP-00678 under item number 192. In order to view and/or copy this data, a FIFRA 10(g) form regarding affirmation of non-multinational status must be signed, http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/foia/affirmation.htm. This is standard procedure for viewing data submitted to support registrations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

ABSTC has agreed to make the confidential portion of the submission available to the public for inspection under certain conditions. One such condition is that persons may only be allowed to view the information claimed CBI if such person signs a confidentiality agreement that has been drafted by ABSTC. This confidentiality agreement will be between ABSTC and the individual signing the agreement. All persons interested in viewing this information will also be required to sign a FIFRA 10(g) form, as well as a sign-in sheet. Thus, the entire data call-in response submitted to EPA, including information claimed confidential, is now being made available for viewing in EPA "reading rooms". These reading rooms are being established at the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs in Crystal City, VA and in EPA Regional Offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Kansas City, KS; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA.

If you would like to see a copy of the either the confidentiality agreement or make an appointment to see the material, please contact the appropriate person or persons for your region. Appointments must be made via phone, letter, or e-mail.

The contacts at EPA Headquarters in the Washington, DC area are Christina Grasso and Trauvello Bethea in Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division. For an appointment at one of EPA's Regional Offices, contact the person at the Regional Office nearest you or contact Christina or Trauvello and they will help set up appointments at the EPA Regional Offices.


Biotech Foods No More Risky Than Conventional Foods

Foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology may actually be substantially less risky for those who have food allergies than conventional or organic foods. The reason is simple—crops and foods improved through biotechnology have been subjected to more prior scrutiny than any other foods in human history. They have been scrutinized with an eye to possible allergenicity, and also for every other potential problem one could imagine. Researchers developing genetically modified (GM) crops consult closely with government regulators at every stage of research and development, and are subject to unprecedented regulation.

New crop varieties typically take a dozen years or more to travel the distance from idea to reality. Foods derived from these crops are scrutinized for another two to three more years. There is no perfect guarantee of safety, but it would be hard to get much closer.

Foods that may cause allergies are particularly insidious. Although only a small portion of our population is at risk, those who are allergic, or who have loved ones with a food allergy, will never forget when they learned of their susceptibility. My two-year-old son is allergic to peanuts. Something as innocent as a cookie shared at lunch by a schoolmate could kill him. We are always mindful of the whereabouts of the epi-pen, and the nearest emergency room.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable a priori test for whether or not a food is likely to cause an allergic reaction. And, there are no good, predictive animal models either. But, although there is a great deal we do not know about the causes of food allergies, there are some things we do know. Severe food allergies are relatively unusual. Most are triggered by one of a small handful of foods: wheat and dairy products, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts. GM foods have not, to date, been improved by moving genetic material from any of these allergenic foods into other foods that are not themselves allergenic. In the event of any such modifications, the resulting food would be required, under existing law, to carry a prominent warning label to alert susceptible individuals.

Far from increasing the risk of food allergies, biotechnology may be a partial solution. Researchers are working with some of the more common allergenic foods to identify and eliminate the allergens they carry. My son reminds me every day of the potential value biotechnology might bring to him and countless others.

Val Giddings is Vice President, Food and Agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization

Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2001 14:16:15 -0400
From: "Indur M. Goklany"
To: agbioworld@yahoo.com
Subject: "The Future of Food"/Precautionary Principle

>From time to time, the precautionary principle rears its head --- ugly or otherwise --- into this forum's discussions. The latest Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy has a paper titled, "The Future of Food" that shows that the precautionary principle, applied without bias and with intellectual honesty, actually supports the wise use of GM foods since the benefits of such foods are certain and large while its costs, if used wisely, are uncertain and relatively minor. The paper also argues that halting GM crops would be detrimental to conserving biodiversity and, therefore, contrary to the aims and goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Perhaps, more importantly, needlessly hindering GM crops would also diminish the quantity and quality of food available globally, which would make it harder for the hundreds of millions who still suffer from hunger and malnutrition to improve their lot. To the extent that freedom from hunger and malnutrition are basic human rights, that would also violate t

The full reference is: Indur M. Goklany. 2001. "The Future of Food." Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy 16 (no. 2, Summer): 59-65.

From: "Roger and Carolyn Morton"
Subject: UK soil Association report - anyone read a copy.
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 20:50:43 +1000

Does anyone have a copy of that UK Soil association report called "Organic
Farming, Food Quality and Human Health". I have just leant that I will
have to pay 12 pounds for the privilege of reading it. So much for freedom
of information.

From: "Roger and Carolyn Morton"
Subject: Cross-breeding: Comparing transgenic crops and non-transgenic crops
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 20:45:50 +1000

Drew Kershen wrote
Subject: Cross-breeding: Comparing transgenic crops and non-transgenic

>One of the reasons for the increased regulations about to be proposed
related to the environmental risk of cross-breeding between crops
>because (if I recall correctly) several studies, including a recent replication
at the Univ. of Chicago of earlier studies, indicated that transgenic
>cropscross-breed at 20 times the rate of non-transgenic crops.

This could be a reference to this paper:

Nature 1998 Sep 3;395(6697):25 Related Articles, Books, LinkOut Promiscuity in transgenic plants.
Bergelson J, Purrington CB, Wichmann G.

What these authors did was take a line of arabidopsis that had been mutated with EMS to induce resistance to a herbicide. Then they cloned the herbicide resistance gene and transformed ordinary arabidopsis with the cloned
gene. The orginial herbicide resistant line they then backcrossed to wild type and selected herbicide resistant progeny. I think they backcrossed for 8 generations. At this point they had two lines of herbicide resistant
Arabidopsis. They then planted these out and measured what frequency the herbicide resistance genes transmitted to non-herbicide resistant lines of arabidopsis. They found that the line produced transgenisis transfered the herbicide resistanc gene more frequently than the line produced by
mutatgenisis and backcrossing. The authors took this as evidence that transgenic plants are more promiscous than conventionally bred plants. They could offer no explanation as to why.

However, the data can also be explained quite simply by the possiblity that even after 8 generations of backcrossing there may be several mutations in the backcrossed line that are effecting pollen viability. EMS mutatageneis produces many point mutations and these authors offer no evidence that the amount of backcrossing done is sufficient to remove any background mutations. Thus, this data may actually be showing that transgenic plants are more healthy than plants made using mutagensis.

I have not heard of this work being repeated and I have not heard of any other similar data from any other research.

I would be interested in getting citations for these "several studies" thatyou refer to.

From: Rick Roush
RE: Drew Kershen's question on the rate of gene flow between
transgenic and non-transgenics

I think the key to the Bergelson paper is summed up by the phrase in
the press report in the Sept. 3/98 Nature Press Digest: "A report in
this week's scientific correspondence pages (p25) SUGGESTS that this
problem MIGHT BE exacerbated by an unexplained increase in
promiscuity of certain transgenic plants."

I show what I think is the the complete original report below. One
key point is that the transgenic lines themselves differed
significantly and by ten fold, raising questions about whether this
was an effect of the transgene or genetic background between the
lines (which could result from lots of differences given the limited
published description, including that the transgenic plants were
healthier and produced more flowers and pollen at favorable times for
pollination). The note presents no data on interplant or interline
variation in outcrossing even among "conventional" non-transgenic
non-mutant lines, but the long history of population genetics
suggests that such variation will be substantial.

Also critical is that Bergelson's own statement: "Our results do not
prove that enhanced outcrossing is due to the transgene itself, but
rather that a difference in outcrossing between transgenic and mutant
plants exists. Because we do not know the underlying genetic
mechanism, the generality of our result is unclear at present".

I don't know of any specific published rebuttal of this work, but a
lot of discussed it in person and over the email and found it to be
preliminary at best.

To the best of my knowledge, there have been no further scientific
publications that flesh out any of these unknowns, although I have
seen a reference in press reports in the last few days to some sort
of further confirmation. It seems to me that if this was a very
impressive confirmation with new data, it would have been submitted
to a prominent journal, but we haven't seen it. The letter to Nature
was good preliminary data for a grant, but still hasn't proved
anything, or in the absence of some plausible explanation for the
effect, even given any cause for further study by anyone else.



Promiscuity in transgenic plants

by Joy Bergelson, Colin B. Purrington*, Gale Wichmann ; University of
Nature 395, 25 (1998)

The ecological risks of genetically modified crops are of greatest
concern when there are no inherent barriers to the spread of
transgenes through sexual reproduction. This is most likely when
transgenes can spread to weedy species through hybridization, or when
the crop species itself exists in weedy forms1. If the potential
recipient of a transgene is a highly selfing species, such as
Arabidopsis thaliana, this risk is often considered negligible2.
Here, however, we report results of a field experiment in which
transgenic A. thaliana showed a dramatically increased ability to
donate pollen to nearby wild-type mothers compared with A. thaliana
mutants expressing the same mutant allele as the transgenic plants.

In the summer of 1996, we planted 144 A. thaliana rosettes at random
locations in a grid at our field site in central Illinois, at
densities reflecting those of nearby A. thaliana populations.
One-quarter of our plants were homozygous for the dominant and mutant
allele of acetolactate synthase, Csr1-1; this allele confers
resistance to the herbicide chlorsulphuron. Mutants were originally
isolated through mutation of the wild-type A. thaliana ecotype,
Columbia, by ethyl methanesulphonate, and had been backcrossed for
six generations3. One-quarter of the plants in the field were
wild-type Columbia, and the remaining half were Columbia-strain
plants transformed to express Csr1-1 in a pBin vector4,5. The latter
possessed insertions at a single site, were homozygous for this
insertion, and were equally divided between two independently
transformed lines.

Plants were grown in the absence of herbicides, and were visited
frequently by syrphid flies which consume pollen and nectar. At the
season's end, we identified progeny produced through outcrossing by
germinating seeds produced by each wild-type Columbia plant on plates
containing 100 nM chlorsulphuron. Chlorsulphuron-resistant seedlings
were transplanted to the greenhouse, where outcrossing was prevented
with pollination bags, and their selfed seeds were collected. We then
identified progeny fathered by transgenic A. thaliana by germinating
selfed seeds on plates containing 50 mg l-1 kanamycin (only
transgenic fathers were resistant to both chlorsulphuron and

A survey of approximately 100,000 seeds showed that the per-plant
outcrossing rate was 0.30% for mutant fathers and 5.98% for
transgenic fathers. Transgenic A. thaliana were roughly 20 times more
likely to outcross than ordinary mutants. We screened a subsample of
281 transgenic progeny with primers specific
to each insertion site in order to identify which of the transgenic
lines had fathered them. We calculated the outcrossing rates for
these two lines as 1.2% and 10.8%. Both transgenic lines showed
increased outcrossing relative to the mutant (2 tests, P<0.003 in
each case), but the two transgenic lines differed in their propensity
to outcross (P<0.001).

To be certain that seed contamination did not contribute to estimates
of outcrossing, we re-plated the seeds from all selfed, resistant
plants on chlorsulphuron plates. Contaminants would have been
homozygous for resistance whereas progeny resulting from outcrossing
would have been heterozygous. Over 99% of our resistant progeny were
heterozygous, and only heterozygous individuals were included in our
calculations. We also placed known resistant and susceptible seeds on
all selection plates to confirm our ability to determine the
phenotypes of progeny.

Our results show that wild-type A. thaliana are more likely to be
fertilized by the pollen of transgenic rather than mutant A. thaliana
when each expresses the mutant allele Csr1-1. Although A. thaliana is
unlikely to become a pernicious weed, these results show that genetic
engineering can substantially
increase the probability of transgene escape, even in a species
considered to be almost completely selfing.

Our results do not prove that enhanced outcrossing is due to the
transgene itself, but rather that a difference in outcrossing between
transgenic and mutant plants exists. Because we do not know the
underlying genetic mechanism, the generality of our result is unclear
at present. Even if enhanced outcrossing is restricted to Csr1-1,
however, our results are of broad relevance because
this transgene has been introduced into dozens of agricultural crops,
and is advocated as a selectable marker for plant transformation
vectors 6.

Joy Bergelson, Colin B. Purrington*, Gale Wichmann
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 1101 East
Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA e-mail:
*Present address: Department of Biology, Swarthmore College, 500
Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081, USA

1.Mikkelsen, T. R., Andersen, B. & Jorgensen, R. B. Nature 380, 31
2.Tiedje, J. M. et al. Ecology 70, 298-315 (1989).
3.Haughn, G. W. & Somerville, C. Mol. Gen. Genet. 204, 430-434 (1986).
4.Bergelson, J., Purrington, C. B., Palm, C. J. & Lopez-Gutierrez,
J.-C. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 263, 1659-1663 (1996).
5.Frisch, D. A. et al. Plant Mol. Biol. 27, 405-409 (1995).
6.Li, Z., Hayashimoto, A. & Mural, N. Plant Physiol. 100, 662-668

Biotechnology For Bio Cotton

Business Recorder
August 25, 2001

For many years, scientists have used traditional plant-breeding techniques to develop improved plant varieties with higher yields and greater resistance to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. However, traditional
plant-breeding techniques can be very time-consuming. It sometimes takes up to 15 years or more before a new plant variety reaches the market.

Furthermore, in traditional breeding, generally only closely related plant species can be used in cross breeding for the development of new varieties and hybrids. Biotechnology - and, more specifically, genetic engineering - enables scientists to breach the reproductive barriers between species. Through the use of genetic engineering techniques, genes from one plant, animal or
micro-organism can be incorporated into an unrelated species, thus increasing the range of traits available for developing new plants. In the 1970s, a series of complementary advances in the field of molecular biology provided scientists with the ability to readily move DNA between more distantly related organisms.

Today, this recombinant DNA technology has reached a stage where scientists can take a piece of DNA containing one or more specific genes from nearly any organism, including plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses, and introduce it
into a specific crop species. The application of recombinant DNA technology frequently has been referred to as genetic engineering. Plants that have been
genetically modified using recombinant DNA technology to introduce a gene from either the same or a different species also are known as transgenic plants.

In the United States, the first genetically modified food product - a delayed-ripening tomato - was marketed in 1994. Since then, genetically modified seeds have become available for many crops. In 1997 first weed - and
insect-resistant biotech crops commercialised by Monsanto-Roundup Ready for soybeans and Bollgard for insect-protected cotton.

Global area of transgenic cotton crop Grown in 1999 and 2000 (in acres):

1999 8,561,800
2000 12,264,200

International market scenario: However, Biotechnology refers generally to the application of a wide range of scientific techniques to the modification and improvement of plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are of
economic importance. But Agricultural Biotechnology is that area of biotechnology involving applications to agriculture. In the broadest sense, traditional
biotechnology has been used for thousands of years, since the advent of the first agricultural practices, for the improvement of plants, animals, and micro-organisms.

Driven by farmers' expectations of lower production costs, higher yields, and reduced pesticide use, the rate at which US farmers adopt genetically engineered (GE) crop varieties has jumped dramatically. About 98 million acres of GE crops were cultivated worldwide in 1999, a 43-percent increase
over acreage in 1998, and US acreage accounts for 72 percent of this. However, actual benefits in terms of costs, yields, and pesticide use vary with the crop and engineered trait.

Bio-tech cotton products in market: Bollgard insect-protected cotton - Bt Cotton (Developed by Monsanto)-Introduced in 1996, cotton with Monsanto's Bollgard gene is protected against cotton bollworms, pink bollworms and
tobacco budworms. Second-Generation Bollgard Insect-Protected Cotton (Developed by Monsanto) - This cotton controls insect pests, like the original Bollgard
cotton, but using a different mode of action to help growers manage insect-resistance concerns.

Roundup Ready Cotton (Developed by Monsanto) - Approved in 1996, Roundup Ready cotton tolerates both topical and post-directed applications of herbicide.

Cost of bio-tech product for cotton crop: The Bollgard brand Bt cotton seed was sold at $34-36 as compared to $8-9 per hectare for non-engineered cotton seed. The average cost of control of cotton insect pests in the US was
approximately $150 in the early 1990s. Hence the prices were still found to be attractive. The transgenics were found to be more effective against Helothis virescens
as compared to pectinophora gossypiella and Heliothis zea.

Importance and application of bio-tech products for cotton crop: Crops carrying herbicide-tolerant genes were developed to survive certain herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds.
Farmers thus can choose from a broader variety of herbicides to control weeds.

The most common herbicide-tolerant crops are Roundup Ready (RR) crops resistant to Glyphosate, a herbicide effective on many species of grasses, broadleaf weeds, and sedges. Glyphosate tolerance has been incorporated into cotton,
corn, soybeans, and canola. Other genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops include Liberty Link (LL) corn resistant to glufosinate-ammonium, and BXN cotton resistant to bromoxynil. According to a surveyed carried out in
USA Herbicides Tolerant (HT) cotton expanded from 10 percent of surveyed acreage in 1997 to 26 percent in 1998 and 46 percent in 2000. Similarly Herbicide-tolerant
soybeans, which was first available to farmers in 1996, expanded to about 17 percent of soybean acreage in 1997, and to more than 50 percent in 2000.

Bt crops containing the gene from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are the only insect-resistant crops commercially available. The bacteria produce a protein that is toxic when ingested by certain lepidopteran
insects, such as butterflies and moths. Crops containing the Bt gene are able to produce this toxin, thereby providing protection against lepidopteran insects
throughout the entire plant. He has been built into several crops, the most important being cotton and corn.

Bt cotton is primarily effective in controlling the tobacco budworm, the bollworm, and the pink bollworm. Use of Bt cotton in Australia, America, and China is expanded rapidly, reaching 15 percent of cotton acreage in 1996 and
35 percent in 2000.

"A survey conducted in USA indicates that factors affecting farmers' adoption of GE crops Most farmers (54-76 percent of surveyed adopters) adopting genetically engineered cotton with pest management traits did so mainly to
"increase yields through improved pest control." The second most cited aim was "to decrease pesticide costs" (19-42 percent of adopters). All other reasons combined (such as increased planting flexibility or environmental benefits)
were cited by 3-15 percent of adopters."

These results confirm other studies showing that expected profitability positively influences the adoption of agricultural innovations. Hence, factors expected to increase profitability by increasing revenues per acre
(price of the crop times yield) or reducing costs are expected to promote adoption. Given that an objective of pest management in agriculture is to reduce crop
yield losses, there is a high incentive for innovations that reduce these losses.

Pakistan is the world's fourth largest producer of cotton after China, the USA and India, according to statistics from the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. Cotton and textiles make up over 60 percent of Pakistan's $7.5
billion annual export.

Cotton growers in Pakistan and other cotton growing countries depend heavily on pesticides. Twenty-five percent of all insecticides used around the world each year are applied in traditional cotton agriculture, according to the US based EcoChoices Green store.

Cotton or white gold as it is aptly called is grown for its lint and seed, which yield cotton fibre and seed oil, respectively. This crop occupies 70-75 millions acre of world area with a production of 20-25 metric tones. In
Pakistan its area spans over 12-14 million acre with an average yield of 485 Kg/acre or 210 kg/ha of lint and 500 kg/acre of seed cotton. To meet thechallenges of this century with a population of more that 140 million,
a total production of 12 million bales is required as against the 7-8 million bales of today. This can be achieved by the use of improved crop production
practices coupled with appropriate pest management tactics. In addition, generation of novel. Bio-technology can help to achieve the near impossible. Genes that have been identified as potentially profitable, if engineered into
acceptable cultivator methodology can be used to generate such transgenics. Among these are genes imparting resistance to herbicides, insects, pathogens and biotic
stresses. It is also widely accepted now that a number of other qualitative characters can be improved, such as fibre strength, fineness, colour and thermal adaptability of the fibre.

Transgenic plants have become realistic components of stress management world over. Bollworm and herbicide resistant transgenic cotton have received the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency and have been
commercially released in the US, Australia and China for cultivation. Considering the fact that numerous biotic and a biotic stresses limit cotton production, it is likely that future strategies might orient towards the development of a multi-adversity resistant high yielding transgenic cotton variety with superior fibre qualities.

Market and use of pesticides on cotton in Pakistan: The present use of pesticides in Pakistan is concentrated on cotton, the most important cash crop, and the most important export commodity. The production of cotton is
concentrated in the Punjab and in Sindh provinces, but is also found in Balochistan. The pesticides applied in cotton are mostly insecticides against a number of very serious pest species, e.g. white fly, jassid, aphid and bollworms. White fly is important, both as a direct pest species and as a transmitter of the cotton leaf curl virus. This virus is the most important disease in cotton.

Some figures for import and use of pesticides in Pakistan illustrate the development:

1983: 1,800 tonnes of active ingredients

1988: 4,900 tonnes of active ingredients

1993: 6,100 tonnes of active ingredients

1996: 13,030 tonnes of active ingredients

2000: 30,400 tonnes of active ingredients

Pakistan offers a rapidly expanding market for insecticides and pesticides. The total market has expanded from Rs 7,200,000,000.00 ($120.00 millions) in 1990 to Rs 1l,000,000,000.00 ($184.00 million) in 2000.

The total cotton area is about 1,400,000.00 acres this year and 85 percent of the total use of pesticides is used in cotton. About three to six applications in the crop are normal, so there is an average use of five kg per acre
per year. However, the total amount of pesticides used in Pakistan is not very high compared to the area of Arabic land, but the pesticide use in Pakistan is concentrated on relatively few crops, with cotton, fruit and vegetables
as the most important.

After all, the intensive use of pesticides in cotton involves a special risk for the harvest workers, the boll pickers, and of an unacceptable residue concentration in cotton seed oil and cakes.

Cotton and freshwater project manager and one of the key official of the WWF Christine Barochler, said regarding excessive use of insecticide on cotton crops in Pakistan that if steps are not taken quickly to reduce it,
developing countries like Pakistan might face something akin to Russia's Aral Sea tragedy. The Aral Sea, spread over 60,000 kilometres, was one of the largest fresh
water ecosystems. But it turned into an environmental catastrophe of astronomical proportion because the Soviet Union's major thrust was conventional cotton agriculture.

Prospects and potential bio cotton for Pakistan: The application of biotechnology in cotton farming can be either in the form of production of fermentation products or novel recombinant products for use or as transgenic
plant with in built resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Transgenic crops with in built resistance to insect pests and diseases can be extremely useful as this would result in the reduction of insecticide use apart from
making pest management simple for the farmer. Introduction of the bollworm resistant transgenic cotton is expected to reduce the use of chemicals used to control bollworm especially Helicoverpa importantly at a time when resistance to most insecticides including pyrethrolids is on the increase all over the world.

By the introduction of the Bt cotton in Pakistan could result in a 45-55% reduction in insecticide use on cotton (Which is 85% of Rs 11.00 Billions). This would mean a benefit of about Rs 4,207,500,000.00 to 5,142,500,000.00,
apart from the favourable impact on the environment and increase in cotton yield. So far, transgenic plants have been produced in about 60 plant species. Cotton has received special attention of the biotechnological companies in the developed countries who were attracted by the profit motives associated with the high value added to the transgenic seeds.

In Australia transgenic cotton that were commercial released in 1997. This resulted in 50-60% reduction in the $93 million spent by farmers each year on insecticides. China one of the major consumers of insecticides on
cotton is reportedly strongly considering the prospects of introduction of Bt transgenic cottons.

Effect of bio cotton crops on yields: It is difficult to estimate the farm-level effect of genetically engineered crops on yields because impacts vary with the crop and technology examined. Yields also depend on locational
factors such as soil fertility, rainfall, and temperature, which can also influence the very presence of pests.

"Last year in India field trials of Bt cotton were carried out, Dr Manju Sharma said contained experiments so far completed in 30 locations had shown a 14-38 percent increase in cotton yield, that too "without a single spraying of insecticide except on the sucking pest."

In Pakistan average yield of conventional cotton per acre is around 25-28 maund or 933.00-1,044.00 Kg. By considering the above results from Indian field trials. Bt Cotton in Pakistan can increase per acre yield from 933.00 to
1063.30 Kg and 1,044.00 to 1,191.24 Kg at 14% level, while at 38% it would increase per acre yield from 933.00 to 1,287.54 Kg and 1,044.00 to 1,442.15 Kg.

This means on one the hand it will bring prosperity for Pakistani farmers on the other it will boom all industries and business activities which are directly or indirectly associated with agriculture sector.

However, farmers growing transgenics have to make an agreement with seed suppliers stating that they would not keep seed for planting next year. Quick ELISA tests have been devised to test for Bt toxins in plant parts, to
check the illegal spread of transgenics. A significantsocio-economic issue that can arise from the introduction of transgenics into the Pakistani farming system is that the high priced seeds may benefits the prosperous and large
farmers thus providing a negative externality on small and marginal farmers. On the other hand it can also argued that the developments from the application of biotechnology would be beneficial to low input farming practices
wherein the cost of chemical inputs can be minimised. It is now only a matter of time before we experience the full social economic and environmental impact of transgenics in our country.

Recent development in cotton transgenics in Pakistan at public sector: Stable transformation and re-germination has been reported for Bt transgenics in Uzbekistan, China, Egypt and Australia. Pakistan is developing cotton
transgenic plants resistant torearcurl virus. Pakistan also has developed transgenic cotton resistant to the CLCUV.

Conclusion: Adoption of genetically engineered crops with traits for pest management has risen dramatically since the commercial introduction in the mid-1990's. Despite environmental and food safety concerns about the use of
genetically engineered crops, it is believed that the use of transgenic cotton crops will offer Pakistani farmers many benefits, such as higher yields, lower pest management costs, and greater cropping practice flexibility. While
benefits and performance of these cotton crops may be vary greatly by region because of pest infestation levels and other factors.

In USA, Australia and China the rapid adoption rates for Biotech crop are evidence that for many farmers expected benefits outweigh expected costs. However, the econometric analysis from ongoing research shows that the impacts
of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use, crop yields, and returns vary with the crop and technology examined. But by controlling other factor increase in adoption of herbicide tolerant cotton and Bt Cotton, led significant increase in yields and net returns, and decreases in insecticide use.