Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

November 13, 2001

Subject:

Tillage Study - Biotech Helps Environment; Benefits

 

- Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -

* Cartoon Again!
* Tillage Study Findings Released by ASA
* Per Pinstrup-Andersen: Do Benefits Outweigh Side Effects
* Health And Environmental Risk Centre of Controversies
* Swaminathan: GM to Do Good to Agri and Food Security
* Should GM Crops Be Allowed
* Bt Cotton Farmers Take to the Streets
* Hundreds of Indian Children Ill After Vitamin Dose
* Is Time Running out for Africa's Leafy Greens?
* Mexican Biotech Web Site
* NGO Watch Digest update: Having A Global Impact
* Attack on Florence Wambugu and Rebuttal

Cartoon Again!

http://www.the-scientist.com/yr2001/nov/cartoon_011112.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tillage Study Findings Released by ASA

- News Release November 13, 2001. Sent by Andrew Apel

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has released the findings of its first-ever conservation tillage study that shows how the availability of soybean seeds enhanced through biotechnology has allowed and encouraged farmers to implement reduced tillage practices that protect farmland from wind and rain erosion.

One result from the study is that 73% of the growers are leaving more crop residue on the soil surface than they did in 1996 when biotech-derived soybeans became available for commercial planting. More than half the study group credited the introduction of biotechnology-derived Roundup Ready Soybeans as the factor that had the greatest impact on their adoption of reduced tillage practices in soybeans.

'This ASA study quantifies what most soybean farmers already know,' said ASA President Bart Ruth, a producer from Rising City, NE. 'Biotechnology gave farmers another tool to control weeds that reduce yields and lower the quality of our crops, while at the same time, helping us improve our stewardship of the environment.'

Using traditional methods, farmland many times was plowed in the fall and must be disked before planting, and then cultivated once or twice during the growing season to control weeds. While this method helped control weeds, it also left the ground exposed to wind and rain erosion, which carries soil and agricultural chemicals into the air and into nearby streams and rivers.

No-till farming means that the ground is not plowed at all, while reduced tillage means that the ground is disturbed less than it would be with traditional tillage systems. Under a no-till farming system, soybean seeds for the next crop are planted right through the organic material that is left over from the previous crop, which might have been corn, cotton, wheat or some other crop.

'ASA estimates that no-till and reduced-till farming is now the preferred planting method on more than 80 percent of all the soybean acres in this country,' Ruth said. 'The majority of growers in ASA's study said that the Roundup Ready system made possible through biotechnology was the biggest reason that they have adopted or increased their use of conservation tillage practices.'

Almost half (48%) of the growers in ASAís study said that they have increased their no-till soybean acres during the last six growing seasons (1996-2001). During this period, no-till soybean acres have more than doubled to 49% of total soybean acres, and reduced till acres have increased by one-fourth, to account for another 33% of soybean acres.

In the ASA study, 53% of the growers said they are making fewer tillage passes in soybeans. Reduced tillage practices in soybeans saved 247 million tons of irreplaceable topsoil in 2000, and reduced the number of times a farmer had to run equipment over the field, saving 234 million gallons of fuel.

'This technology reduces my production costs, because I don't have to drive my equipment over each field as many times,' Ruth said. 'That decreases my labor cost and the wear-and-tear on my equipment. It also lowers my fuel cost and improves the air quality. And for the first time in modern history, we have the technology to implement sustainable agricultural practices that are saving the soil for future generations.'

For the study, ASA hired Doane Marketing Research, Inc., a local firm that is nationally recognized for their expertise in conducting agricultural studies involving farmers. Doane studied the farming practices of 452 farmers in 19 midwestern and southern states with quotas established based on each stateís proportion of soybean acres. Participants with 200 or more soybean acres were randomly selected from lists maintained by Doane, plus 201 participants were selected at random from an ASA members list.

While the study shows that ASA members were earlier adopters of conservation tillage practices, by 2001, the tillage practices of non-members were similar to that of ASA members. The ASA represents more than 26,000 soybean producers with affiliate offices in 26 states and 13 international marketing offices around the globe.

'ASA wanted to look at soybean tillage practices in 1996 and compare them to present day tillage practices,' Ruth said. 'As producers, we knew that biotechnology was improving the way we farm. This study gives us an objective way to measure these changes, identify the reasons for it, and determine what obstacles may be keeping some farmers from implementing more conservation tillage on their farms.'

Read the entire report: http://www.soygrowers.com/file_depot/0-10000000/0-10000/735/folder/9709/Consv_Till_Study_11_01.pdf

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do Benefits Outweigh Side Effects

- Per Pinstrup-Andersen, The Economic Times, 13 Nov 2001

To begin, let me directly address the first question: Do the benefits of GM crops outweigh the risks of possible side effects?

The answer: No damaging side-effects have been detected from any genetically engineered crops submitted for approval. This basic fact must be noted at the outset of the debate itself. With respect to Bt Cotton, experience from South Africa and China, where it has been approved for on-farm production, shows large benefits. The use of chemical pesticides have been reduced dramatically.

This has reduced production costs for farmers, protected the environment from pesticide residues, and reduced illness and death from pesticide poisoning. No damaging side-effects have been found. And huge benefits have accrued to all sections of society. It should therefore not be a surprise that Indian farmers want to grow Bt Cotton.

All new technology should be tested for health and ecological risks before it is approved for release on farmers fields. However, if such tests do not identify any risks or if benefits are judged by a responsible panel of people representing consumers and producers to outweigh risks, I see no reason for withholding approval.

Can the government keep delaying a decision on GM crops? Each GMO should be judged on its own merit. A blanket rejection of all GMOs does not seem to make much sense. If a particular GMO, say a seed resistant to a certain pest, has been tested and no unacceptable risks have been identified, I see no reason for delaying approval.

If GM crops were banned, can the ban be imposed? I predict that the demand for the release of safe GMOs from population groups who stand to gain, including small farmers and poor consumers will be so strong that the government will find the ban to be a political liability.

After all, what would be the justification for the ban? This is especially more true of poor developing countries, where Economics dictates that all possible means of gain be pursued.

Poor farmers are even more likely to go for Bt Cotton because of the potential gain. Governments will be unable to stop them without serious political risk.

And if not, do we risk suffering the side-effects without getting the benefits? As illustrated by the illegal action by the cotton farmers, it may be difficult for the government to enforce a ban on something with large potential benefits and no known risks.

If the government wishes to regulate the release and use of gm crops, it should be able to justify the regulations on grounds that can be understood and agreed to by the population.

I strongly believe that the risks are hyped out of all proportion while the benefits are being ignored.

This is especially so in the context of the developing world because, unlike the European consumer who spends a very small proportion of his income on food and hence can afford to ignore the cost-reduction benefits of GM food, poor consumers in the developing world spend close to 60-70 per cent of their income on food.

Any reduction in the price of food because of the higher productivity due to genetic modification is a net gain to him. Of course, in the final analysis, its a choice that each country must make, it is not for multilateral agencies to try and influence the choice or thrust it down the throats of developing countries.

There are also some preconditions that must be in place. These include a bio-safety system that can test for possible risks. European NGOs that oppose GM foods dont say no to genetic modifications in the sphere of medicine. Thats because they know they need it, but they dont need GM food. Indians must note this !

(The author is Director General, IFPRI, Washington, DC) (And the winner of the recent World Food Prize)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Health And Environmental Risk Centre of Controversies

- Bhagirath Choudhary, The Economic Times, 13 Nov 2001

The Health and environmental risks from the use of genetically modified crops in agriculture have been the centre of controversies but few have been observed and not yet scientifically and conclusively proved.

Yet another initiative on this front was the establishment of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2000) as biosafety clearing house, for countries to share their information as well as experience on technological safety about genetically modified organisms. There is hardly any scientific evidence on potential environmental risks. Only the precautionary approaches of selection of crops to be genetically modified and the integrated gene and pest management practices can ease the effects of gene flows to close relatives and the development of pest resistance to pest-protected crops.

In Indian conditions, the non-food crops like horticulture, cash crops etc, which are vital for farmers economy, need to be genetically modified, tested and commercially adopted before genetic modifications are tried for food crops.

Do the benefits of GM crops outweigh possible damaging side effects? Of course, yes. The GM technologies have the potential for tailor-made food and non-food crops against biotic and abiotic stresses such as insect, drought, salinity and alkalinity.

It broke the barrier between plant and animal kingdoms by providing a process of recombining the specialty genes of different plant and animal species, thereby triumphing over deceleration of food and non-food crops productivity.

In addition, the crops can also be customised to the required nutritional quality. Globally, the area under cultivation with GM crops such as soybean, corn, canola and cotton has shown a remarkable growth since 1996 and is likely to reach 125 million acres at the end of 2001.

Consider the case of cotton, the government has been importing raw cotton (worth of US$270 million in 2000-01) to meet the demand of worlds competitive and ever growing Indian textile and clothing industry.

The Ministry of textile has set the textile and apparel export target to US$50 Billion by 2010 keeping in view the trade opportunities created by the implementation of WTO.

At domestic level, cotton yield is decelerating, even if 48 per cent of total insecticides used in India that is worth almost Rs 2000 crore per year are spread over 9Mha cotton growing area to mitigate the damage caused by Bollworm complex.

The potential loss caused by insects amounts to more than Rs 5000 crore per year. The WHO Hazard list (I) contains most of chemical ingredients used in the manufacturing of cotton insecticides and advocates minimum use of such insecticides.

Only a poor farmer can feel the environmental degradation caused by such insecticides, not the environmentalists. Perhaps, we can not afford the delay, neither on the economic front as huge opportunity cost is involved nor on environmental front while deciding on the GM issue.

If GM crops were banned, could such a ban be enforced? It is unlikely for two reasons. Enforcing a decision requires certain strength in government machinery, which is not visible. Secondly, the ban itself would be against the spirit of innovation and therefore lacking in moral authority.

If a ban is imposed but can not be enforced, do we risk getting the side effects without getting the benefits? No, however it would promote unfair corporate practices, unreasonable marketing procedure and illegal sale of banned products as is presently happening in the case of Bt Cotton.

The poor farmers or end users would economically suffer and be the eventual losers. The government regulating agencies should encourage such experiments in the farmers fields with a controlled manner and closely monitor developments with a view to influence their cause.

(The author is a Fellow, NISTADS / CSIR)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GM to Do Good to Agri and Food Security

- Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, The Economic Times, November 13, 2001

Let me illustrate from our work the power of genetic modification to do immense good to agriculture and food security.

It is now clear that the 21st century may witness changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level and ultraviolet radiation, as a result of global warming. This led us to initiate an anticipatory research programme to breed salt tolerant varieties of mustard, pulses and rice in coastal areas, in order to be prepared for sea water intrusion into farmland as a result of a rise in sea level.

The donor of salt tolerance was a mangrove species. Transferring genes for tolerance to salinity from mangrove tree species to rice, mustard or tobacco is an impossible task without recourse to recombinant DNA experiments.

Thus, the immense benefits that can accrue from genomics and molecular breeding are clear. What are the principal concerns? Besides bio-safety concerns, the following three issues: First, India is a land of small farm holdings. There is concern that expansion of proprietary science and shrinking of public good research supported from public funds may lead to a situation where the technologies of the future remain in the hands of a few transnational corporations. Only resource-rich farmers may have access to them, thereby enlarging the genetic divide.

Second, the monopolistic control over crop varieties could lead to a situation where large areas are covered by very few genetic strains or hybrids. What will happen to the livelihoods of farm men and women operating small holdings with institutional credit and with no crop insurance cover, if GM cotton, maize, soybean, rice, potato or other crops are affected by serious diseases as a result of the breakdown of resistance?

Hence, GM crops should be cultivated only with appropriate disease containment agronomy. A third issue relates to the potential impact of GM foods on bio-diversity. This aspect has two dimensions one dealing with the replacement of numerous local cultivars with one or two GM strains, thereby leading to genetic erosion, and the other relating to equity in benefit sharing between biotechnologists and the primary conservers of genetic resources and the holders of traditional knowledge.

At present, the primary conservers remain poor, while those who use their knowledge (for example, the medicinal properties of plants) and material become rich This has resulted in accusations of bio-piracy. It is time that genetic engineers promote genuine bio-partnerships with the holders of indigenous knowledge and conservers of genetic variability, based on principles of ethics and equity in benefit sharing.

Unless research and development efforts on GM foods are based on principles of bio-ethics, bio-safety, bio-diversity conservation and bio-partnerships, there will be serious public concern about the ultimate nutritional, social, ecological and economic consequences of replacing numerous local varieties with a few GMOs. Also, under conditions where the market is the dominant factor in determining research priorities, orphans will remain orphans in terms of investment of research funds, unless the public sector steps in.

We should not throw the baby with the bath water. Genetic engineering is only a tool for bringing about novel genetic combinations. Molecular genetics is the pathway to precision breeding. We should not condone unauthorised releases of GMOs, as in Gujarat. What is important is to put in place an objective and speedy risk-benefit analysis mechanism which inspires public trust.

For this purpose, the government of India should set up without further delay a multi-stakeholder National Commission on Genetic Modification for Food and Health Security.Recent events with Bt Cotton in Gujarat underline the urgency of such a multi-stakeholder body which functions in a transparent and professionally credible manner. (The author is Winner of the World Food Prize, 1987)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

India: Should GM Crops Be Allowed

- The Economic Times, November 13, 2001 (via Agnet)

P.K. Ghosh, and advisor to the Dept of Biotechnology, writes that genetically modified crops carry one or more genes from an unrelated species and that in order to dispel apprehensions about GM crops, countries are conducting case-by-case safety evaluation before releasing them into the new environment.

Ghosh says that in India, no GM crop has yet been commercially released. India's transparent, three-tier regulatory regime oversees the development of GM crops from research to commercial use. Violation of the regulatory procedure attracts penal actions. Carefully tested GM crops introduced into the environment can benefit the society whereas introduction without evaluation can be dangerous. Weakly expressed insect resistance genes in GM plants can cause a change in the insect population, facilitating rapid emergence of resistant insects. Viral resistant plants can cause the development of more virulent strains through recombination with wild strains.

Herbicide resistant plants may lead to development of super weeds. Antibiotic resistant marker genes can get transferred into pathogenic microbes. Introduction of transgenic sequences at undesirable site of the chromosome can lead to undesirable morpho-physiology of the crop plants. Transgenic proteins entering into human or animal food chain can be allergic or toxic. India started handling GM crops based on technologies of multinational companies. Indian public sector expertise is developing but is not geared to commercial exploitation. Elite planting materials available in the country can be used to agronomic advantage by incorporating transgenic traits with the assistance of technological capabilities and materials of multinational companies.

Teaming up is therefore advantageous. The two transgenic plants, namely the Bt Cotton and the herbicide resistant Indian mustard, which have made noteworthy progress in open field evaluation, use technologies of Monsanto, USA and Plant Genetic System, Belgium respectively. All other GM crops being tested like tobacco, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, potato, eggplant and paddy have to go a long way before they qualify for release. New Seeds Act is likely to be in place shortly. Consequently, unauthorised introduction of GM plants on large scale in near future is unlikely.

+++++++++++++++

Bt Cotton: Farmers Take to the Streets

Indian Express, November 13, 2001
http://www.indian-express.com/ie20011113/nat3.html

Around 12,000 to 13,000 cotton farmers have held an agitation in Wardha near Nagpur under the leadership of Sharad Joshi, leader of the Shetkari Sanghatana. They were protesting against the government's decision to set the Bt cotton crop on fire after buying it from farmers. The farners organised a ''rail roko'' agitation at Wardha and Sewagram railway stations, disrupting train traffic on Central Railway's Mumbai-Howrah route.

++++++++++++++++++

From: "Dr. Peter Langelueddeke"
Subject: Bt Cotton in India

Reagarding the fascinating story on bt-cotton in India, I have two questions:

1. What is the scientific name of that bollworm? Heliothis armigera, H. virescens or Pectinophora gossypiella, or another one?

2. Which pesticides are normally used by Indian cotton farmers to control this pest which apparently became resistant?

Thanks in advance, Dr. Peter Langelueddeke, D-65719 Hofheim, Germany

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(Note from Prakash: Following tragic story on 'vitamin-A toxicity' in India further underscores the need to push 'Golden Rice' and other interventions such as leafy vegetables (see also below). Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, found in Golden rice or spinach is not toxic while vitamin A overdose can lead to problems of teratogenicity and acute toxicity, although I am not sure whether the India tragedy was also because of contamination. See earlier commentary on this by Dr. Alfred Sommer a http://www.agbioworld.org/listarchive/view.php?id=141
===

'Hundreds Of Indian Children Ill After Vitamin Dose'

-Biswajyoti Das, Reuters, November 13, 2001

Dispur, India - Government officials were cited as saying Tuesday that a medical U.N.-sponsored drive to protect against blindness in northeastern India left 700 children hospitalized and a 2-year-old girl dead.

The story explains that workers gave the vitamin A, supplied by U.N. humanitarian agency UNICEF, to 321,000 children up to the age of six to ward off blindness in the northeastern state of Assam, state officials said. Health Minister Bhumidhar Burman was quoted as telling a news conference that, "At present there are 700 children hospitalized in different parts of the state and they are not in a serious condition." He said a 2-year-old girl died two hours after she was given a dose of vitamin A Sunday, adding earlier reports up to 10,000 children might have been affected by the concentrated vitamin A solution were unfounded. Vitamin A is regarded by doctors as a simple, cost-effective way of preventing blindness among poor families, whose diets often lack vitamins.

+=+=+=+=+=

Is Time Running out for Africa's Leafy Greens?

With more than 1,000 different types of leafy greens to choose from, African consumers can access a virtual treasure chest of nutritious vegetables.

Urbanization and a tendency to place a higher value on foods introduced from abroad, however, are leading to the loss of many important species. Among them are crops that contribute significantly to human health and can be grown with little water and without agrochemicals.

For the full story, visit the Future Harvest website at: http://www.futureharvest.org

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: GDrimmer@bunge.com
Re: Selected biotechnology sites in Latin America

You forgot the the Mexican Society of Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
It was found 20 years ago and has over 1000 members.

http://www.smbb.org.mx.

Best regards, Dr. Mayra de la Torre
President, Sociedad Mexicana de Biotecnolog=EDa y Bioingenier=EDa ensaje citado por

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NGO Watch Digest update: Having A Global Impact

InTOUCH, October 2001,p 5. http://www.ipa.org.au/

The IPA’s NGO Watch Digest has achieved an important niche in proving detailed strategic information about the advocacy NGO industry. Each edition is now eagerly awaited by corporate executives, journalists, business organisations, government officials, politicians, lawyers and others within Australia and abroad who have regular dealings with the industry.

PHILIPPINES: The investigation into the funding sources of antibiotech NGOs in the Philippines has been widely distributed up to a cabinet level within the Arroyo Government, and has finally started people asking questions about these groups.

MALAYSIA: These revelations followed information released by the IPA to the Malaysian media about the extent of funding of antibiotechnology activists after it was found that two small NGOs were receiving US $350,000 (M$1,300,000) in one year from a radical US foundation (Foundation for Deep Ecology) opposed not only to genetically modified food but to modern industrial agriculture itself. The news, which was carried by every Malaysian media outlet, led to a Government investigation into the legality of foreign funding of Malaysian NGOs. While the Government found that no laws had been broken, it has made it quite clear that this funding should be disclosed, and is considering legal action to ensure this is done.

Investigations: More investigations in a similar vein are planned. Because much of the work is more investigative than just plain research, it often requires analysis of tax returns, annual reports, monitoring of activist web sites and listservers. Whilst it is extremely labourintensive, it is something that has to be done.

Revealing: NGO Watch Digest, since its inception, has discovered a number of fascinating things:

*All antibiotech NGOs in Asia are overwhelmingly funded by foreign sources (either US foundations or from Europe);
*Greenpeace International, which claims not to take any government or corporate money, is getting government and corporate money monies funnelled to it from WWF;
*NGOs are a huge industry in their own right. Greenpeace International has an annual budget of about A$240 million, WWF has about A$800 million, Oxfam has about $720 million, and the Friends of the Earth Federation has about A$800 million;
*The growth in NGOs is not due to increased membership, but rather to their ability to secure funding from foundations, governments, international agencies and companies – grassroots numbers have either been static or in decline;
*The agendas of NGOs are increasingly being driven by their funding sources, such as US foundations, because of their ability to give large bloc grants on a project basis;
*NGOs which target business are increasingly moving into shareholder activism;
*The Australian Conservation Foundation is now receiving much more money from the corporate sector then the IPA, the Adam Smith Society, the HR Nicholls Society and the Lavoisier Society combined;
*53% of every dollar raised by Greenpeace Australia is spent on fundraising
*The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) attacked Citigroup as an environmental destroyer after that firm refused to pay for a RAN conference
*There are fewer degrees of separation between ‘respectable’ NGOs and the antiglobalization S11 activists than these NGOs would have us believe.

The Good And The Bad: The NGO sector is one which has often been cited as a cure for much of society’s maladies. However, what the NGO Project is starting to discover, through careful analysis and painstaking research, is that this sector is a sick sector. It is filled with some very good people doing some very good things, but it is also filled with some of the worst people doing some unspeakable things. Only time will tell whether the bad will ruin things totally for the good.
(Note $ here is Australian Dollar)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Attack on Florence Wambugu and Rebuttal

Posted to Biotech debate (biotechdebate@iatp.org) By realkids_au@yahoo.co.uk

> My spoofing friend realkidsau@yahoo.com.auwrote
> Well I actually did a little research this time, and
> found reams of research by ISIS, NGIN et al.
> addressing the very argument's in Dr. Wambugu's article

Dr Wambugu's main argument was that there are specific examples of GM research that will have a major benificial impact on Africa. She cites virus resistant sweet potato as one such example. Does this "research" address the arguments in Dr Wambugu's post or does it just
attack the messenger? Lets see.

> Be interesting to know, wouldn‚t it, just how often
> those cited as „scientists‰ supporting GM crops in
> developing countries actually have some sort of vested
> interest in the technology‚s acceptance?

This is just a simple attack on the messenger. She works as a scientist so her
arguments must be bogus - I don't even have to address her ideas.

> „These new crops are popular because they provide
> farmers, life sciences companies, and consumers with
> major benefits such as reduced pesticide applications,
> higher yields, and lower consumer prices (Wald 1999).‰
> [http://www.biotech-info.net/havoc_hope.html]
>
> That last load of bull (given we‚ve seen life science
> corporations going belly up, little evidence of
> overall pesticide reductions, and both yields and
> export markets hit, not to mention the startling
> absence of any apparent consumer benefits from
> currently available GM crops)

How about specifically addressing the issue of virus resistant sweet potato? Dr. Wambugu's article was talking about a specific application of GM technology to a specific problem of African agriculture and all you can cite is percieved problems with existing technology.

> 2. Kenya Joins War On Biotech Products - By John Mwaura, Panafrican News Agency
>„ISAAA‚s agenda will only make conditions worse for small farmers....
> Small farmers need sustainable, inexpensive technologies that do not come with high
>risks, or generate dependency on foreign companies..

A s Dr Wambugu pointed out, if this technology is developed in the public domain by publicly funded research (like she is doing) or if the technology is donated to the poor farmers of the world (like golden rice) then the technoloy is absolutely free. It is exactly what small farmers need. A virus resistant crop that you just save from year to year. No expense at all. So this is not an argument against the technology.

>He says that it is only on certain instances that biotechnology could
>be used to improve certain food crops and may be nutritional qualities.

I agree with this statement.

>He cautions that the trend towards partial monopolisation of funding in agricultural development
>into a narrow set of technologies is dangerous and irresponsible.

I agree with this statement too. Lets stop the monopoly by supporting the use of the technology in public research labs. The more you protest the easier it is for the big biotech companies to gain monopoly because protesting creates onerous regulations that only big businees can afford to over come.

>They believe that African countries can boost their
>agricultural production using conventional means without having to resort to transgenic crops.

Why can't we use both?

„3. from: http://www.grain.org/publications/reports/isaaa.htm
>„Tell me, if I can do very well with my existing
>seeds, why should I need laboratory seeds or the
>altered seeds (GMOs)? If I can conserve my own seed,
>why would I be so stupid as to purchase seed from the
>company?

Absolutely. This is exactly right. If you can save your own seed and the companies seed is not going to offer you any advantages then you would be stupid to buy the companies seed. But your activist friends say you are stupid because they say that "the companies will force poor farmers to buy their seeds"

So as I see it this is not an argument against biotech. If a company makes a seed and can sell it at a price a poor farmer will want to buy it at then this is a good thing isn't it? The farmers of India recently paid over the normal price for Bt cotton I believe. So if the product is useful it can get sold. If it is not the company looses money.

>„All technologies have some negative impacts and can
>marginalise people, creating inequality. This is the
>same with genetic engineering, of which we don‚t know
>and we are not being informed properly about how it
>was produced, but it must have negative impacts, just
>like the high-yielding variety seeds. We will be
>forced to buy chemical fertilizers and pesticides, for
>which the prices always increase.‰

No need for more fertilizers for a virus resistant sweet potato. And you would need less pesticides because you don't need to spray for insects that spread the virus.

>„There are many alternatives and sustainable ways to solve farmers‚ problems. By using
>only organic fertilizer and traditional varieties we can improve both yield and quality.‰

Organic fertilizer does not cure virus disease. If there was a virus resistant sweet potato it would already be used as a traditional variety.

>Who needs these seeds?
A starving family loosing 80% of his crop to virus disease.
--------------
So in all this "research" not one thing addressing Dr Wambugu's main argument.
Just personal criticism of who she works for and the ususual non-arguments.