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October 30, 2001


Defending Your Crop; Ending Hunger; Fake Concerns; Africa


Today's Topics in AgBioView.

* Indian Farmers Defend their Bt Gene Cotton Crops
* The Dilemmas Over Illicit GM Cotton
* Chinese Premier Among Officials Lectured on Gene Technology
* World Food Prize Winner Urges Elimination of Hunger
* Higher Risk from Bt Sprays than Bt Crops
* Genetically Altered Crops Increasingly Popular In Africa
* Can Farmers in the Dev Countries Benefit from Technology? Experience from South Africa
* Turmoil in Aussie Organic Fruit Industry
* SE Asian Researchers Target Papaya for Virus-resistance and Delayed Ripening
* Toby Bradshaw: Research Continues (Despite Attack by ELF)
* Egyptian Media Accuses U.S. for Using Biotech to 'Alter' Foods in the 'Food Aid' to Afghans
* UK Farmers Refuse to March with Protesters : Chaos as Farm Demo 'Hijacked'

Farmers Decide to Defend their Bt Gene Cotton Crops

- Sajid Shaikh, The Times of India. Oct 31, 2001

Haruch: “Over our dead bodies,'' thousands of farmers said in a chorus at the Nilkantheshwar temple on the banks of the Narmada on Tuesday. They were taking a pledge with their leader Sharad Joshi announcing that they would not allow the government to touch the standing Bt gene cotton crop, commonly known as the 151 Navbharat biyaran.

“They will have to walk over our corpses to destroy this crop. This is our satyagraha. This is a question of the farmer's freedom to select his seed and access technology,'' Joshi said here on Tuesday. Joshi, president of the Shetkari Sanghathana, was addressing a mammoth rally of farmers held here to protest against the Centre's decision to destroy the cotton crop produced by using genetically modified cotton seed (Bt Cotton).

“By depriving the farmers their freedom to choose the seed, the governments in Gandhinagar and New Delhi are indulging in terrorism. They are turning a blind eye to scientific arguments and resorting to extremism,'' Joshi said. He observed that the genetically modified seed used to produce cotton yield in Gujarat had a rational ground for acceptance. “I am talking about what I have seen in the fields here. This technology (genetic modification of seeds) has more benefits. The risk, if any, is bare minimum and within acceptable limits,'' Joshi said.

He said that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) should not take a decision isolating the farmer. “The farmer has a right to experiment. Two to three pickings have been done and it is prudent that the government allows the farmers to make two more pickings before beating the drums of `burn the crop','' Joshi said. He termed the government's biotechnology policy as anti-farmer. “They don't see the harm in biotechnology used while making pesticides, but decide that it is hazardous when the technology is applied to seeds.'' He said: “Development should not be locked up in the cities. The marvel of technology should reach the villages.''

He called the protest in Gujarat a revolution that would soon spread to other states. “Give us these seeds and we will sow it in our fields in Punjab. The cotton crop that we have seen here is fantastic,'' said Bhartiya Kisan Sangh president Bhupendra Singh Mann while addressing the rally. “We have tested the seeds. This is the third yield using Bt cotton seed. The government says it is hazardous. If that is so, why are they not proving it scientifically,'' said Gujarat Khedut Samaj president Vipinbhai Desai.

“We get 10 quintals (tons) of cotton per acre sown with BT seeds. The additional expense per acre here is not more than Rs 50 (~$1). Whereas we only get four-eight quintals of cotton per acre sown with hybrid seeds. Besides, we have to spray pesticides worth Rs 5,000 a month (~$110) and still remain unsure of the ballworm,'' said national Kisan coordinator committee convener and president of the Bharuch and Narmada district farmers' association Labhshankar Upadhyay.

Parth Shah of the Centre for Civil Society (New Delhi) said the use of Bt seeds was safe. “This is a genetically modified seed which can adapt to any situation,'' he said.


The Dilemmas Over Illicit GM Cotton

- Mukund Padmanabhan, Editorial, The Hindu, October 30, 2001

The story about the planting of illicitly-sourced genetically modified (GM) cotton seems to be getting worse by the day. Sources in the regulatory set-up at New Delhi say that they are now examining the evidence that this cotton - grown from seeds developed by an Ahmedabad-based company - has been cultivated in the States other than Gujarat, namely Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

It is believed that anything up to 12,000 acres, mainly in Gujarat, have been planted with 'Navbharat 151' - genetically modified cotton seeds which contain the Cry1Ac gene that renders plants immune to bollworm pests. While the Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee (GEAC) has called for the crops to be destroyed, this is going to be easier said than done. At stake are crops, which are valued at several crores (millions of $). Moreover, there is marked reluctance, particularly on the part of the Gujarat Government, to take steps which will affect the livelihood of farmers.

While the prosecution of the Ahmedabad-based seed company seems inevitable, the authorities are reluctant to initiate action against the GM cotton farmers (who incidentally are liable under Rule 89 of the Environment Protection Act). On the contrary, the Gujarat Government has talked about fixing a compensation package for the GM cotton farmers - in other words, pay them to uproot and burn their crops. An alternative strategy is making the rounds in the regulatory corridors of New Delhi. Under this proposal, farmers would be allowed to grow and sell the cotton this year, but forced to destroy the seeds (the GM component).

The patent for the Cry1Ac gene, which is derived from a soil bacterium Bacillus thuringenisis (Bt), is owned by the multinational Monsanto. In India, the seed company Mahyco, in which Monsanto India has a substantial minority stake, has been licensed to conduct large-scale field trials of Bt Cotton, necessary before environmental clearance is granted for commercialisation. It was Mahyco which blew the whistle about the illicit Bt Cotton after tests conducted by the company revealed the presence of the Cry1Ac gene. How the Ahmedabad seed company manufactured the GM seeds is not clear. But it is likely that they were made from Bt cotton seeds smuggled from abroad and then either back-crossed on an Indian variety or by creating a hybrid through the use of a sexually compatible Indian variety. Neither process is difficult, though the latter course is probably easier to adopt.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mahyco's managing director, Mr. Raju Barwale, said he was confident that the Government would take the right action and uphold the law. The present approach seems to be directed wholly at taking tough legal action against the Ahmedabad seed company. The importance of doing this is not because of the environmental risks posed by the introduction of the illicitly manufactured GM seeds but as a deterrent against future misuse against a potentially dangerous technology. Bt Cotton with the Cry 1 Ac gene has been tested extensively and is grown in a number of countries. Therefore, there is no cause for undue environmental alarm.

However, the point is that a lax and forgiving attitude could send dangerous signals. Seeds can be genetically modified to cause environmental havoc and therefore it is imperative that a tough attitude is adopted by the regulatory-law enforcing authorities. Whatever is done should send out a clear signal that any form of unauthorised genetic modification is simply not tolerated.

Ironically, the usually vocal anti-GM lobby has been unusually quiet during this controversy. Greenpeace has not issued a formal statement yet. And there have been no strong unequivocal calls for the illegal GM crops to be destroyed at once. Having opposed the introduction of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt Cotton on environmental grounds, this group is reluctant to adopt a tough stance now that farmers have actually begun to grow it. Admitted one eco- activist: "In the present situation, it is difficult to be environmentally correct and politically correct at the same time."


Senior (Chinese) Officials Lectured on Gene Technology

BEIJING, Oct 30, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice-Premier Li Lanqing were among a group of senior officials attending a lecture on gene technology given by Zhang Qifa, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tuesday.

The academician specialized in genetic modification research spoke on the present situation in China's research on gene-modified animals and plants and the industrialization of gene technology. He also briefed the officials about the significance and prospects of applying the technology to China's agriculture and issues related to the security and management of genetically-modified crops.

Premier Zhu said after the lecture that genetic-engineering has become a hot topic internationally. Facing intensified competition in the technology, China must improve its research power, personnel training and financial support in this respect to improve the quality of crops like cotton and soybean and push the country's academic research on the technology up to an internationally advanced level.

Zhu also called for systematic spreading of popular agricultural-related gene technology that is widely accepted around the world to enhance the competitiveness of China's farm produce on the international market and accelerate agricultural modernization. He asked policy makers to attend to ideas and advice from the academic circles in formulating related policies. Vice-premiers Qian Qichen, Wu Bangguo and Wen Jiabao, and four state councilors also attended the lecture, which was organized by the National Leading Group on Science, Technology and Education.


World Food Prize Winner Urges Elimination of Hunger

- Rod Swoboda, Wallaces Farmers

Rich nations should invest more of their money in eradicating the roots of terrorism - hunger, poverty and human misery. That's the message Per Pinstrup-Andersen delivered to the World Food Prize symposium October 19 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Danish-born agricultural economist was awarded the 2001 World Food Prize last week for influencing global food policies that have improved the lives of millions of people. In his speech, Pinstrup-Andersen said the world's political stability is threatened by the widening gap between the people who have wealth and resources and those who do not. He presented statistics showing that the income of the world's richest 1% of the people equals the income of the poorest 57%.

Hunger and poverty help foster terrorism. More than 800 million people in the world go to bed hungry every night, says Pinstrup-Andersen. About 166 million of them are children. Seven million children die from hunger every year. That can be avoided by investing more money in ag research, clean drinking water, primary education, rural roads and irrigation, he said.

"It would be a mistake to try to build taller walls around ourselves," said Pinstrup-Andersen. "We can not protect ourselves from the terrorist acts of madmen." Using the money from one week of the world's military expenditures would be enough to fund all five investments, he said. He believes science and technology should be made available to the world's poorest people to help them feed themselves - if they want to use these tools.

Free trade with a human face. If biotech crops are best for them, then people in poor countries should be able to choose to plant them, says Pinstrup-Andersen. Opponents of genetically-modified crops in rich countries shouldn't tell farmers in developing countries whether those farmers should or should not be able to grow biotech crops.

He would like to see more research directed to the problems faced by small farmers in developing countries. Also, world-trading rules need to be watched more closely for the impact they have on developing countries. "Globalization is like a knife. It can slice your bread or it can kill you," says Pinstrup-Andersen.

If the markets of developing countries are open to food and other products produced by the rich countries, then developing countries also should be allowed to sell goods in the rich countries' markets, he adds. "That is free trade with a human face."

Diseases and health problems also need to be dealt with, especially in Africa, where AIDS-HIV, malaria and tuberculosis are making food production much more difficult. Human health and food production are linked. "You cannot solve the one problem without dealing with the other," says Pinstrup-Andersen. ©2001 Farm Progress Companies


Higher Risk from Bt Sprays than Bt Crops

Re: Biopesticide and Bioweapons?
- Posted to by ; Wed, 31 Oct 2001

> ISIS Report, October 23, 2001 - Joe Cummins writes:
> The bt toxin genes are employed in crop genetic engineering. Currently,
> there has been little or no effort to evaluate the possible recombination
> between B. anthracis in the field and the endotoxin genes of crop plants.
> Such gene exchange could occur in the soil between GM plant debris and
> bacteria.

Mr Cummins,
How can you on the one hand say the risk of gene exchange between crop debris and anthrax is high and we should worry about it while on the other hand say that the risks of gene exchange between anthrax and the organic biopesticidal bacteria, Bt is of no concern except where anthrax has been known to have existed?

Surely you are not going to try and deny that the probability of gene exchange between crop debris and anthrax is orders of magnitude lower than the probability of gene exchange between Bt bacteria and anthrax?

If you do not deny this then surely, by your stated logic on the risks associated with Bt spraying in areas of past anthrax infections, the use of Bt crops is only a risk with respect to Anthrax in areas that have previously been infected with anthrax. And even then the risk here is orders of magnitude lower than that posed by Bt bacteria.

Will you be conducting a campaign to have Bt sprays replaced by Bt crops in areas which are known to have had anthrax infections?

When will ISIS show some real concern for Science and Society and not fake concern to fit an agenda. You need to do some serious twisting of the facts to make a case that Bt crops are a danger with respect to anthrax while Bt bacterial sprays are not. It shocks me that you would even try. Can ISIS sink any lower?

I have no idea how risky Bt sprays are with respect to anthrax - I suspect very low risk indeed. But what I do know is that whatever the risk is for Bt sprays the risk for Bt crops at least 10 fold - probably 10 thousand fold lower. This is based on scientific evidence of the frequency of horizontal gene transfer between bacteria compared to horizontal gene transfer from plants to bacteria.


Genetically Altered Crops Increasingly Popular In Africa

- AP, October 31, 2001

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Farmers in the Makhatini Flats of South Africa were skeptical when told they wouldn't need to use chemicals to keep worms from devouring their cotton, the head of a farming group in the area said.

But Themetshe Joseph Buthelezi was willing to try anything to improve the quality of life in the region - one of the poorest in the world - including trying cotton genetically engineered by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. "I really wanted to make more money, and I wanted my people to make more money," Buthelezi said. About 90 percent of the farmers in the region now grow the cotton, genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide, said Buthelezi, who was to tell his story Wednesday at the Corporate Council on Africa Summit here.

In the first season he planted the crop, commonly known as Bt cotton, Buthelezi increased his farm's yield substantially. Other farmers, who had been hit hard by a particularly dry season, were surprised he had done so well, he said. "They never believed it would work," he said.

The gene was developed by Monsanto, and the enhanced cotton is marketed under the name Bollgard. Monsanto said it is the first genetically altered crop grown commercially in South Africa. "The only way (Buthelezi) was able to grow cotton before was fairly intensive chemical treating that would protect the crops from bollworms," said Robert Horsch, a Monsanto vice president.

Horsch said the engineered cotton works better than pesticides and doesn't leave the same residue. Some environmentalists have raised concerns about the engineered cotton, fearing insects will develop a resistance to the gene. In the United States, where the genetically engineered cotton is widely used, the Environmental Protection Agency has said there is no evidence that such resistance is developing. But environmentalists say it is inevitable. Horsch said the concerns have been addressed with built-in protections in the
seed, monitoring and safe farming techniques.

Since he started planting the cotton, Buthelezi said he has increased his farm to about twice its original size. "Automatically, the standard of life has changed," he said. "Most of the people are able to make money. They can do and buy other things and send their kids to school." One unexpected development from the increased cotton yield has been the need to teach money management skills, he said.

"You know, the time of harvest you'll find everyone buying bicycles and children's toys and food, all this type of stuff. And when they are finished harvesting, they are back to square one again," he said. Buthelezi said he is building a house with the additional money he has made. More than 190 American companies, including Monsanto, make up the Corporate Council on Africa, which seeks to strengthen trade and investment ties between the United States and Africa. The biennial conference is expected to draw 1,200
people to Philadelphia.


Can Farmers in the Developing Countries Benefit from Modern Technology?
Experience from Makhathini Flats, Republic of South Africa

- Yousouf Ismael, Richard Bennett, and Stephen Morse; The University of Reading. Reading, UK
Crop Biotech Brief. Vol. 1 No. 5, Download complete paper at http://isaaa.org/kc/

Genetic engineering is now being heralded as the technology for the future, and promises are already being made that this new technology will help solve the problem of world hunger as it revolutionises agriculture. Despite the adverse reaction to genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, there is a broad consensus that biotechnology may be particularly important for developing countries. Although the issue is contentious, the recent International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, 2001)1 report does make a strong case that effective use of biotechnology could be essential to the alleviation of rural poverty in developing countries. Impacts such as reduced cost, increased output and decreased chemical use have persuaded farmers in USA and Canada to adopt the new technology. Will farmers in the developing countries benefit from this technology? So far there is little evidence other than supposition to answer this question. Therefore, the aim of the research summarised here was to look at the economi

Genetically modified crops in south africa
The GMO Act (Genetic Modified Organism Act, Act 15 of 1997), passed in 1997 and implemented in 1999, paved the way for the introduction and commercialisation of GM , mainly the insect resistant Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) crops in South Africa. Approximately 3,000 ha and 50,000 ha of Bt-maize were planted in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Bt-cotton is grown mostly in the Northern Province with some in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, with 100,000 ha grown by 1,530 commercial farmers and 3000 small-scale farmers mostly under dryland conditions. It is estimated that in the next growing season, around 95% of the 4000 farmers in the Makhathini region will adopt the Bt cotton. Cotton accounts for 1% of total South African agricultural production, generating approximately US$ 50 million per annum.

Since 1998, smallholder farmers in one of the cotton areas of South Africa have been adopting a genetically modified cottonseed variety (NuCOTN 37-B with Bollgard™). The area is Makhathini Flats in KwaZulu-Natal province, where rural households cultivate land allocated to them by their tribal chiefs. Agriculture is an important source of income in the Makhathini area. The major crops in the area are beans (Phaseolus), maize (Zea mays) and cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). The latter is grown as a commercial crop; planting takes place from mid October to mid December and harvesting from mid May to mid June. Farming in the area is practised on small-scale farms ranging from 1 to 3 ha, and cotton usually occupies most of the farm. The main reason for growing cotton (besides cash) is that the crop needs less intensive management than maize or beans and can survive fluctuating weather. A depleted labour force (due to male migration to town), low capitalisation (hence heavy reliance on credit), and climatic constrain


The Survey: The survey was conducted in November 2000 with a sample of 100 (60 Bt adopters and 40 non-adopters) smallholder farmers in the Makhathini Flats. It concentrated on the adoption of Delta Pineland's Bt-cotton variety (NUCOTN 37-B with Bollgard™), and specifically examined its impact on yields, gross margins and technical efficiency (notably pesticide use). The survey covered two growing seasons: 1998/1999 and 1999/2000. By the 1999/2000 season, 12% of the 4,000 farmers in the region adopted the new GM cotton seed.

The sample, some descriptive statistics: The average farm size of respondents was 6 ha, although 62% of the farms included in the survey were less than 5 ha. Approximately 73% of respondents owned livestock (hens, sheep, goats) and 25% had non-farm income sources.

Agronomic problems: Fifty-seven percent of farmers considered pests to be their biggest agronomic problem and 62% of these categorised the bollworm2 as the major pest. Too much rain was a distant second at 24%, followed by weeds, which was ranked highest by only 11%.

Non-agronomic problems: Eighty-two percent of farmers cited lack of credit as their major non-agronomic constraint, as compared with 14% who rated land scarcity as their biggest problem and only 4% whose greatest difficulty was lack of labour.

Adoption of Bt Cotton: In the 1998/1999 season, 81% of the farmers surveyed, cultivated non- Bt cotton, compared to 19% who grew the Bt variety. However, in the 1999/2000 season, 65% of the farmers adopted the Bt variety. All those who grew Bt cotton in the first year carried on growing the following year, suggesting that they were satisfied with the new variety. Generally, the adopters of Bt cotton were more experienced (years spent farming) than the non-adopters and had larger farms. A combination of these two characteristics ensured that these farmers were specifically targeted by Vunisa agents for the promotion of Bt cotton, and therefore were more likely to be exposed to the technology and receive credit. The key factors affecting early adoption of Bt cotton were thus the availability of credit, or other means of purchasing inputs, such as non-farm income, and pressure from the Vunisa personnel. There seemed to be no technical reasons to prevent all the smallholders from adopting, if only sufficient c

Performance and impact: Table 1 (not reproduced here.....CSP) summarises the yield performance and economic impact of Bt cotton. In both seasons, Bt cotton gave higher yields per hectare than the other varieties. Differences between the averages were 18 kg/ha and 121 kg/ha for 1998/1999 and 1999/2000 respectively. In the second season this represents a 40% yield advantage, despite the fact that the seeding rate was only 45% of the recommended rate for the adopters (55% for the non-adopters). Similarly, Bt cotton gave higher yields per kg of seed planted in both seasons. Adopters averaged 50 kg of cotton per kg of seed in the first season, as compared with 37 kg for non-adopters. In the second season, the adopters produced 44 kg while the non-adopters only got 23 kg for each kg of seed.

The use of Bt cotton increased seed cost in both seasons. Adopters averaged R197 per hectare in the first season, as compared with R119 for non-adopters. In the second season, the adopters spent R214 as compared with R127 for the non-adopters. This was offset by the fact that Bt cotton reduced chemical cost in both seasons. Adopters averaged R93 per hectare in the first season, as compared with R132 for non-adopters. In the second season, the adopters spent R83 as compared with R129 for the non-adopters.

Higher yields increased output value, at the expense of increased seed cost, which were offset by lower chemical cost. The average gross margins (output value minus the cost of intermediate inputs) for Bt cotton was R781 in the first season as compared with R791 for the non-adopters. The second season revealed that the adopters' gross margins averaged R677 as compared with R428 for the non-adopters, an advantage of 35%.

Discussion and conclusion: The results of this survey provide considerable cause for cautious optimism regarding the impacts of Bt cotton. The farmers who adopted the Bt-cotton variety benefited from the new technology in terms of gross margin particularly in the second season. Average yield per hectare and per kilogram of seed was higher for adopters than for the non-adopters, and the increase in yield allied with a reduction in pesticide cost outweighed the higher seed cost. This was a bad year, due to unusually heavy rainfall and the Bt adopters suffered far less of a fall in yields than those who did not adopt. Apart from pesticide cost reduction, the adopters of Bt cotton presumably enjoyed other potential benefits such as a reduction in spraying costs (including labour) and saving of time. Moreover a reduction in the quantity of insecticide applied in the area would be beneficial in terms of human health and the environment.

In a system such as that of cotton production on the Makhathini Flats, with only one supplier of inputs, source of credit, and the only market, it is perhaps not surprising that the main dynamics at play in adoption of Bt cotton were as they were. The tendency was for the older, more experienced farmers and those with larger farms to have higher percentages of adopters especially in the first year of adoption. This can be explained by the fact that these were the farmers who were more likely to be granted credit. They were also able to finance the higher seed costs from savings or from other income sources and are more likely to take risks. Indeed, almost all in the sample said they would adopt Bt cotton if they had the financial resources to do so.

However, given the short study period (two years), no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the adoption dynamics in the region. Some farmers may decide to return to non-Bt varieties in the long run, if the seed suppliers decide to appropriate a greater share of the benefits by raising their prices. If this were to happen, it would be unfortunate, as this study shows that there are potential gains at the farm level. Further years of data are required for a larger sample of farmers, together with more detailed data on the labour and other aspects of adoption before final judgement of the benefits of Bt cotton to small holders could be possible. Another research is currently gauging the relative benefits of uptake of the crop for larger, commercial farmers compared to small holders.


Turmoil in Organic Fruit Industry

ABC Online, http://www.abc.net.au/news/state/tas/archive/mettas-31oct2001-15.htm
(Forwarded by Andrew Apel )

Tasmania’s organic fruit growers are in turmoil after discovering that a spray widely used on tree seedlings is genetically modified. Some orchardists have started pulling out trees that have been treated with the spray, and even digging out surrounding soil in the hope of protecting their organic accreditation.

The secretary of the Tasmanian bio-dynamic Organic producers, Philip Tattersall, says a survey is being conducted to find out how wide spread the impact could be. He says the results are not encouraging.

“It’s turned out that 20 to 30 of our growers may be affected and we are now in the closing stages of that survey,” Mr Tattersall said. “Some growers have elected to pull trees out of the ground and will move straight into a quarantine stage and we’re advising others on a case by case basis,” he said.


SEA Researchers Target PRSV Resistant and Delayed Ripening Papaya

- Mariechel Navarro , Managing Editor, Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology

Nguyen Van Lam, a member of the Ha Vi farmers cooperative in Ha Nam, Vietnam can still remember when their contiguous land of 30 hectares was planted all to papaya. Like other farmers then, he did not have to plant any other crop as he could earn enough from just growing papaya, a favorite fruit in Vietnam. However, due to the devastating papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), farmers now have to grow fewer papayas in tandem with vegetables and other crops.

Similarly, in Southern Luzon, Philippines, papaya production used to be a lucrative business. The outbreak of PRSV wiped out the papaya industry. Violeta Villegas, research professor of the University of the Philippines's Institute of Plant Breeding says that PRSV accounted for 80 per cent decline in papaya production in Region 4 and has now spread all over Luzon, the Bicol Region and even to the islands of Leyte, Negros and Panay.

Aside from PRSV, another problem of papaya is that the fruit ripens quickly which makes it difficult to store and transport to distant places. Indonesian and Vietnamese farmers, for instance, harvest the papaya when the fruit is 25% yellow and ripens in five days. This scenario is replicated in many areas of SEA where papaya is grown as a backyard or plantation crop.

Alarmed by the devastation of PRSV and the postharvest problem, researchers have been trying to solve these constraints. Unfortunately, they have not been successful in developing virus resistant varieties or cultivars where ripening of fruits can be delayed through traditional breeding. A ray of hope has been found in developing PRSV resistant and delayed ripening in papaya through modern biotechnology.

To address the problems of papaya, the Papaya Biotechnology Network of SEA Asia was formally launched in March 1998 with the primary objective of enhancing income generation, food production, nutrition, and productivity for resource-poor farmers by integrating proven biotechnology applications into their agricultural practices. In the near term, the network seeks to positively impact the lives of farmers in Southeast Asia by increasing the availability of papaya for both food and modest incomes.

The network is composed of experts from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) developed and brokered the project with support from the public and private sectors.

ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that facilitates the transfer of agri-biotechnology applications-particularly private sector proprietary technology-from industrial to developing countries for their benefit. Monsanto and scientists of the University of Hawaii are collaborating with the network to develop PRSV resistant papaya while the former Zeneca Plant Science, now part of Syngenta, and the University of Nottingham are sharing their technology and know how on delayed ripening in papaya.

Randy Hautea, ISAAA Global Coordinator and SEAsia Director, says that through the network, SEA researchers are now working at developing local papaya cultivars that are resistant to PRSV and have delayed ripening traits. In a few years time, they hope to produce local papaya varieties suited for each country and make them available for small-scale farmers.

The network members are collectively addressing the critical aspects of product development, effective biosafety and food safety regulations, product dissemination, and product acceptance by growers, consumers and the general public.

As part of capacity building and research activities of the countries, selected scientists and regulators of the Papaya Biotechnology Network were sent on study fellowships abroad to have hands-on training and research in molecular biology, plant transformation, food safety and regulatory procedures. Private company and public laboratories as well as government regulatory organizations host these study fellowships. In addition, ISAAA organizes workshops on specific topics in participating countries, the latest of which was in Vietnam this October 2001.

Technical presentations on papaya breeding and agronomy were done at My Tho, Vietnam by papaya experts Nguyen Minh Chau of Vietnam, Violeta Villegas of the Philippines, Chan Ying Kwok and Raveendranathan of Malaysia, and Robert Paull of USA. Participants then moved on over to Hanoi, Vietnam to present country reports and plan future activities. They also visited papaya fields in neighboring districts.

Country report highlights indicate that Malaysia will expect to test their delayed ripening papaya while Thailand will test its PRSV resistant papaya in field trials next year. Other member countries are making good progress and hope to do their own field trials a few years after.


Toby Bradshaw: Research Continues

Pew Initative on Food and Biotechnology - Buzz, Vol. 1 Issue 5 October 29, 2001

Last May, Toby Bradshaw, an associate professor at the University of Washington's botany department and College of Forest Resources, hit the headlines not for his work on trees, but as a result of a fire set by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)-an extremist group that maintained Bradshaw was damaging the forest ecosystem with genetic engineering.

The destruction of his office, as well as the labs and offices of his neighboring colleagues was a terrible disappointment to Bradshaw. But in some ways it was even more surprising and educational to learn why he had been targeted and how the attack affected his and others' commitment to their work. "Maybe it would have taken them five minutes to discover that I've never published any papers on genetically engineered trees," says Bradshaw, who is continuing his research on hybrid poplars-trees bred without genetic engineering.

His work, while having potential applications for the forest products industry, is purely academic, he says. "My personal goal is to just understand how trees grow." The attack has given him a poignant understanding of just how counterproductive eco-terrorists can be-even to their cause. Among the casualties of the firebombing were endangered species brought to the university for study and protection. One was a plant called the showy stickweed. One hundred showy stickweeds were killed in the fire-one quarter of the remaining members of that species.

"It was a net negative," says Bradshaw. "It could lead to the extinction of a whole species. [The ELF was] short on facts and long on sociopathic behavior." Well before the attack, Bradshaw and his colleagues had been working on bridging the gap between the scientists and local environmental activists. They had organized meetings to try to begin discussions about people's concerns, he says. Bradshaw found the most extreme activists weren't interested in learning about what he and his colleagues were doing.

"It's very hard to have a discussion with them," says Bradshaw. "The most vocal critics don't know very much about the science." And that can mean trouble when it comes to making policy. "They don't have the ability to distinguish good science from bad science or even non-science. They just don't have the background." A good example, he says, is the ELF's labeling him a "driving force" in genetically engineered tree research. It's an assertion he can't comprehend because he's never actually created a GM plant.

"[The ELF isn't] very sophisticated. And instead of getting educated or even partaking in a civil discourse, they burn down buildings," Bradshaw said. "Presumably, they wanted us to think about the work we were doing and stop it. But, scientists already deliberate on their work. Science is driven by introspection and self doubt. The idea that firebombing an office would promote more thought is ludicrous."

Bradshaw and his colleagues remain undeterred. The Washington State Legislature made it crystal clear that terrorism is no way to resolve issues-they approved funds to rebuild the destroyed building two weeks after the attack. Bradshaw now has a new state of the art facility to continue his research. (See the Spotlight for other state-based information.)

Bradshaw also speculates the ELF may have become even less palatable to mainstream environmentalists since the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. He notes, "In order to support ELF, you have to espouse terrorism as a tactic which after Sept. 11, I think is pretty untenable." Bradshaw noted he and his colleagues at the University of Washington have found a heightened commitment to preserving open academic science in the wake of the firebombing. "Our whole reason for being here is to promote transmission of knowledge," says Bradshaw. "I'd never want to live inside a fortress with razor wire."


Now Vandana-esque Accusation from an Egyptian Media that U.S. used biotech to alter foods used in the 'Food Aid' to harm Afghans....!

'Words From Egypt'

Editorial, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 30, 2001; Page A20 , http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9038-2001Oct29.html
(Forwarded by "John W. Cross" ). Excerpts Below

Al Ahram's editor, Ibrahim Nafi -- who owes his position as editor of Egypt's most well-known newspaper to Mr. Mubarak -- called our commentary "deranged" and "barbaric," while Al Akhbar editor Galal Dewidar, a government employee, said it was "a lie based on deceit." That's okay; we would be the last to question another editorial writer's prerogative to dish it out. What's more interesting is what the two editors had to say about the nature of the American media and the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. According to Mr. Dewidar, not only do "American media submit to the directives of the Jewish lobby" but their "identity is American in theory but Zionist in practice." He added: "We have begun to view these mouthpieces as a media apparatus in the pay of . . . the Zionist organizations and the apparatuses working clandestinely."

Mr. Nafi, who moved on from The Post to roundly condemn the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, also has a theory. "There were several reports," he recounted, that the food supplies dropped in Afghanistan by U.S. planes "have been genetically treated, with the aim of affecting the health of the Afghani people. If this is true, the U.S. is committing a crime against humanity." There's more, but you get the idea: anti-American, anti-Jewish diatribes mixed with flagrant pro-Taliban disinformation, all disseminated by the top editors of newspapers that faithfully reflect Mr. Mubarak's views (Al Ahram) or the official government line (Al Akbar).


From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Protesters Opposed!

Chaos as Farm Demo 'Hijacked'
- The Gloucester Citizen, October 29, 2001

An attempt to burn the American flag turned a march calling for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak into a fiasco. March organiser Hector Christie, a north Devon farmer, poured lighter fuel onto the Stars and Stripes in Gloucester Park on Saturday in front of farmers.

But an outcry from the farmers present prevented him setting it alight and, under the eyes of police, the radical anti-globalisation protester backed down. Farmers from Gloucestershire and across the county, angry at the idea of burning the US flag in the wake of the September 11 atrocities, then refused to march behind Mr Christie to Shire Hall as had been planned.

They stayed by the bandstand in the Park as Mr Christie and other anti-capitalist marchers, mainly from outside the county, started off but their protest fizzled out as Mr Christie walked off saying he was disillusioned. The demonstration and march had been publicised as a peaceful call for a public inquiry into the way the Government handled the foot-and-mouth crisis. But in his speech, Mr Christie talked about globalisation, a police state, a media conspiracy and the company Monsanto which develops genetically modified crops.

He then told the 50 farmers and protesters gathered that he would burn the US flag to protest ìabout the evil of the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and Monsanto, which are responsible for the destruction of our planetî. But farmers stepped forward calling for him to stop. Farmers Julie Currie from Stroud, Bill Osborne from Lydney and Mary Rose from Lydbrook were in the forefront of opposition.

They told Mr Christie they felt they had been brought to demonstrate under false pretences.

Mrs Currie said: "I found the whole thing deeply offensive."
Mr Osborne said: "Burning the flag would have put everyone against each other."
And Mrs Rose said: "The march has been hijacked by people with another agenda."

Speaking afterwards to The Citizen, Mr Christie said he wanted to make a symbolic gesture to get attention. "I knew I was going to get nailed for it. I wanted to burn the flag as a symbol of the WTO. But now I am getting out, I am totally disillusioned with protesting." Inspector Dave Evans of Gloucester Police said: "It would not be illegal to burn the American flag, but there was a chance that it would have caused some offence and we would have taken a serious view of that. " Some of the farming community were uneasy about marching with them and decided to stay back. "The march petered out before it reached the end of the park."