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

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





January 1, 2002


activistcash.com, OECD Report,


Today in AgBioView:

* Website sheds some light on the nation's food fight
* OECD Reports Hails 'Eco-Friendly' Biotech
* Policy Divisions Shape Biotech Progress
* RE: GP Denounces New Currency
* United Soybean Board Research Shows That Anti-Biotechnology Activist Groups Fail to Influence Consumer Behavior
* Yes, We Will Have Bananas
Rejuvenating Banana Orchards in Eastern Africa

Website sheds some light on the nation's food fight

The Denver Post
December 30, 2001
By Al Knight,

Most Americans are aware by now that there is a movement under way to raise suspicions about the the quality and nature of the country's food supply and, if possible, to change the way people eat.

Dozens of nonprofit organizations play a role in this loosely organized campaign and, because it is so loosely organized, it has been difficult to even estimate how broadly based it is or how well-financed it might be.

That's changing, thanks to the Internet and to the availability of public tax information.

A new website, http://www.activistcash.com, has been established and will be maintained by the Center for Consumer Freedom. This is a group largely financed by the nation's restaurant and tavern sector, a sector particularly sensitive to food-related issues. The information on the website comes mostly from Internal Revenue Service records. It shows the interlocking nature of the organizations that are busy trying to convince the American public that poultry, seafood, beef or pork is bad or that certain apples, bananas or coffees should be consumed.

It's a strange collection of interests that meet and even collide at times. The Wilderness Society, for example, may oppose certain uses of public lands such as grazing cattle or running sheep, and so the organization's interests may fit with other groups that oppose eating beef or lamb or the very notion of creating and maintaining a 'meat supply.'

The great value of the new website is that it traces grants from all kinds of organizations, from the giant Pew Foundation to groups a fraction of that size. What the IRS records show is that these activist organizations are extremely well-funded and relatively tightly controlled. That is, many key players work for multiple organizations. It's not at all uncommon to find that board members of one group serve on the boards of two or three or more other organizations.

The same incestuous pattern exists as far as the money is concerned. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave almost a half-million dollars to the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This organization, which is clearly an animal rights group rather than a public health organization, in turn has close ties with EarthSave International, Farm Animal Reform Movement, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Mothers for Natural Law, Organic Consumers Association and United Poultry Concerns.

United Poultry Concerns, by the way, is the group that makes a clamor every Thanksgiving to discourage Americans from eating turkey or other poultry products.

It should be noted that this campaign to discredit and alter the nation's eating habits is not being run by a group of cloistered scholars who have studied food-related issues and arrived at disinterested conclusions. In many (probably most) cases, there are financial conflicts of interest. If genetically altered food products can be discredited or regulated out of existence, well then, it just might open a market for so-called organic products. If Americans can be scared witless by alarms about pesticides or herbicides, that just might work to some organization's benefit as well. One hand often washes the other. For example, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy shares office space with a for-profit group called Peace Coffee, or Cafe Paz. Both groups have received money from the Tides Foundation.

It is not difficult to find references in the mass media to some of these groups. They are all experienced at getting publicity. What is almost completely missing from the mass media, however, is any reference to how the organizations interlock and work together.

What the activistcash.com website makes clear is that there are many such connections and a common theme to the work of these groups. The unifying goal is to first disturb people about what they eat and then transform the way Americans select their food.

It doesn't serve the purpose of these groups to be open and honest about what they are up to. That might put everyone on full alert and encourage a counter-offensive. Instead they seek to operate in a kind of low-light setting where they can pick and choose their targets. Activistcash.com is valuable because it shines some light where light is so clearly needed.

Al Knight (alknight@mindspring.com) is a member of The Denver Post editorial board.


OECD Reports Hails 'Eco-Friendly' Biotech

BINAS Online
December, 2001

A new OECD report supports the view that biotechnology can have a potentially beneficial effect on the environment. Biotechnology has long held out the promise of providing alternative methods of industrial production that are both environmentally friendly and economically efficient, thus breaking the seemingly inevitable circle of industrial growth fuelling environmental damage. Until now, however, there was little in the way of hard evidence to support the assumption of such potential. The OECD report, 'The Application of Biotechnology to Industrial Sustainability', cites actual case studies as proof that economic gains and respect for the environment can go hand in hand.

The report draws on 21 case studies from a wide range of industrial sectors: pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, bulk chemicals, food and feed, textiles, pulp and paper, minerals and energy. The case studies also cover a wide range of countries: Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa. The case studies show how governments and the private sector apply biotechnology in industrial development, how they make decisions about adopting or rejecting the use of this technology, how they acquire the necessary skills to use it and how biotechnology contributes to reduced cost and improved sustainability. Two major areas of biotechnology covered in the report are the use of renewable resources ("biomass") and the use of bio-processes (bio-catalysts, enzymes) in industrial production. While the report points out that biotechnology applications may need to be used in tandem with other tools or integrated into other processes in order to be most effective, it

The report concludes that it is in the interests of both developed and developing countries for governments to promote the appropriate use of biotechnology. New "bio-processes" can substantially reduce emissions and the use of hazardous raw materials. They result in fewer by-products, generate fewer waste materials and consume less energy.

Contact: OECD , OECD Health and Safety Division,
2 rue Andre Pascal, 75775 Paris, Paris,
75775 Paris Cedex 16, France
Tel: 33-1-4524-1677
Fax: 33-1-4524-1675
Url: http://www.oecd.org/ehs/icgb/


Policy Divisions Shape Biotech Progress

BINAS Online
December, 2001

Governments in developing countries have taken very different approaches to regulating GM crops, and this has led to major differences in the progress achieved. This is one of the conclusions of "The Politics of Precaution: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries", written by Robert Paarlberg at Wellesley College for the International Food Policy Research Institute. The book notes that China has taken a permissive approach to biosafety, trade, and food safety and consumer choice, and is way ahead of other developing countries in terms of growing GM crops on a large scale. Paarlberg points out that "lack of open political space" for opponents of GM technology to raise objections has been one factor allowing China to move ahead in this way. Meanwhile Kenya, Brazil and India have adopted a more precautionary approach.

Paarlberg says that consumer resistance to GM crops in Europe and the consequent government moratorium has had an indirect effect on exporting countries in the developing world. "Those countries are tempted to remain GM-free to retain their access to European markets." He points out that developing countries could move ahead with industrial crops such as GM cotton, and with crops such as Bt maize or RR soyabeans previously approved in the EU. "But informal consumer resistance to GM in Europe could discourage even the planting of these crops. And if the price for ending the moratorium is a strict traceability regime, as is now expected to be in place sometime after October 2002, then developing countries might find it highly unattractive to export to Europe if they are planting GM."

Paarlberg believes that some countries could benefit in the short term by going GM-free: "Some exporters to Europe, Japan, or Korea might benefit from staying GM free (so long as illegal planting as in Brazil and India can be blocked). But over the long run it will become quite costly for poor farmers should they have to forego the benefits that continued GM crop innovations might provide."

Paarlberg doubts that the World Trade Organization is likely to push all countries in to accepting GM crops. "The US may eventually bring a case in the WTO against the new EU traceability directive, but even if the US were to win such a case I expect the EU would prefer to pay compensation or accept retaliation rather than change its directive."

The Cartagena Protocol on biosafety, with its rules on entry for living modified organisms, has been a mixed blessing for developing countries, says Paarlberg "The Protocol creates no new obligations for developing countries as importers of LMOs, so they tend to view it as a plus. The exceptions are countries such as Brazil, which expect some day to be exporting GM commodities. For exporters, the protocol is potentially troublesome because it allows importers to refuse LMOs on a precautionary basis, without a scientific demonstration of risk."

In his book, Paarlberg emphasises the need for governments to commit to research spending if they want to make progress, noting that China was investing in crop biotech as long ago as 1986. He thinks that intellectual property rights have been overemphasised as a barrier to GM development in the developing world. " The major barrier so far has been getting biosafety approvals for GM crops from national biosafety committees in the developing countries themselves. Where biosafety approval has been granted, IPR has never been a barrier." He says that the IPR problem is sometimes solved when companies allow royalty-free use in the developing world, and sometimes by putting the valuable trait in a hybrid variety.

The Politics of Precaution: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries, is published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Date: 1 Jan 2002 20:36:36 -0000
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: AGBIOVIEW: GP Denounces New Currency

If it is not a joke we need to hold their feet to the fire on this one.
They have put themselves in a real corner on this. We also need to point out
the environment damage done by mining metals is worse than that done by GM
cotton and paper making process for making checks populates a lot of
water ways. So if they want to reduce their impact on the environment they
can only take organic crops as barter:}


Gordon Couger
Stillwater, OK

: Greenpeace Denounces Paper Currency
: Vows Only to Accept Coins as Donations
: INT-News
: (1 January 2002 -- Amsterdam) INT -- Upon hearing the revelation that
: new European paper currency (EURO) is made with non-organic cotton,

United Soybean Board Research Shows That Anti-Biotechnology
Activist Groups Fail to Influence Consumer Behavior

United Soybean Board
ST. LOUIS, Dec. 6

Despite prolific and vocal campaigning by anti-biotechnology activist
groups against national food manufacturers and retailers, research
conducted this year by the United Soybean Board (USB) demonstrates that a
surprisingly low number of U.S. consumers are aware of activism related to
biotechnology. These findings, part of USB's 2001-2002 Annual Report on
Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition indicate that while the voices of the
activist groups may be loud, few are accepting their message.

According to USB's survey, 48 percent of consumers responded that they do
not know enough about biotechnology to say how they view the use of
genetically modified ingredients in food products. Out of the 62 percent
who were aware of the term "genetically modified," only 19 percent were
aware of activist groups linked to the issue. Out of that 19 percent, 80
percent say they have not taken any action such as boycotting products or
writing food companies, based on information that activist groups have
provided. "If you project this back to the total population represented in
our survey, less than four percent of consumers have taken any action in
regard to genetically modified food," stated Mississippi soybean farmer and
USB Board member Jerry Slocum.

Other industry studies have shown similar results. The International Food
Information Council (IFIC) released a study titled U.S. Consumer Attitudes
Toward Food Biotechnology in early 2001, which shows that 64 percent of
Americans expect to benefit from biotechnology within the next five years.
Only two percent of the consumers polled named genetically modified food as
a food safety concern. Also, when asked what if any information not
currently included on food labels would they like to see, only two percent
cited "genetically modified" as a preference. And contrary to activist
claims that increasing numbers of consumers do not want biotech products in
their food, IFIC's study found that 61 percent of Americans surveyed
believe and can state how biotechnology will benefit them or their families
in the next five years.

"We have seen some high profile food companies and retailers come under
attack as anti-biotech activists claim that consumers are demanding
non-biotech ingredients. Some of these companies have made concessions,
only to be met with more demands from activist groups. According to our
research, these food companies may be spending millions at a time when
resources are becoming more scarce, to address a concern that is held by a
very small minority of the population," Slocum stated.

The United Soybean Board is a farmer-led organization comprising 62
farmer-directors. USB oversees the investments of the soybean checkoff on
behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. USB has conducted research on consumer
attitudes about nutrition for the past eight years.

SOURCE United Soybean Board

CONTACT: John Bissell of Publicis Dialog, +1-413-443-4005, or
john.bissell@publicis-usa.com , for
United Soybean Board


Asia Pulse
January 2, 2002
(Via Agnet)

Pesticides Association of India Vice-Chairman Pradip K Mazumdar was cited as saying today the group was in favour of the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country after certain tests have taken place, adding, "GM crops only impart a temporary resistance to pests and even after their introduction the need for pesticides will still remain." The story says that in India the consumption of pesticides was one of the lowest in the world at three dollars per hectare compared to US$633 per hectares in Japan and US$392 per hectares in Taiwan. This left tremendous scope for introduction of pesticides in proper doses in various regions plagued by pests even if GM seeds are given clearance for commercial release.


Central News Agency (Taiwan)
January 1, 2002
By Deborah Kuo

Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) Technology that change corn into polymers has recently been transferred to Taiwan's two leading textile manufacturers, allowing them to produce environmentally friendly fabrics.

The technology, developed by scientists from the Dupont Laboratory, uses genetically modified corn as a base and specially typed yeast as catalyst, to obtain polymers -- that formerly had to be refined from petrochemicals -- and make them into raw materials for the textile industry. Dupont Taiwan has transferred the technology, dubbed 3GT, to Far Eastern Textiles and Shin Kong Textiles, allowing the two companies to produce fabrics of comparable quality to those produced with petrochemical raw materials, said Chueh Meng-chang, president of Taiwan Dupont's Textile and Garment Technology Division.

Chueh said the "corn fabric" factory need only be about one-fourth of the size and cost of a petrochemical plant producing the same amount of raw material. If the supply of corn remains stable, Chueh went on, "corn fabric" factories are likely to replace the pollution-causing petrochemical plants.


Yes, We Will Have Bananas
Rejuvenating Banana Orchards in Eastern Africa

Banana is a major food staple and a source of income for over 20 million people in eastern Africa, many of them resource-poor women farmers. Yet production is less than half the level it could be and continues to decline steadily as pests and diseases tighten their grip on the region's aging banana orchards.

That could all change, if farmers could only obtain the clean, high-quality planting materials they need to regenerate their plantations. Under a project developed and brokered by ISAAA, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture, NGO's, and women's groups to encourage the production, testing, dissemination, and adoption of tissue-cultured banana plantlets. The project was launched in 1996, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC). It brings together the Institute of Tropical and Subtropical Crops (ITSC) and other entities in South Africa with those in Kenya, receives diagnostics from the John Innes Centre (JIC UK), collaborates on germplasm testing with Uganda, and delivers clean banana plantlets to small-scale farmers. In fact, the first few thousand plantlets are already growing in the fields of resource-poor farmers.

When Mrs. Mburu wants to grow more bananas, she follows a time-honored method. She simply uproots a sucker growing alongside one of her existing banana trees, then replants it in the desired spot. In time the sucker will grow to become a 'mother tree' in its own right, flanked by its own suckers.

Used by millions of small-scale farmers all over Africa, Mburu's method carries no cash costs and requires little labor. It does, however, have significant drawbacks. The sucker carries with it all the diseases and pests afflicting the mother plant, and these are passed on to the new tree. Without the introduction of fresh planting material, the quality and vigor of the trees decline with each generation. The method is also desperately slow—traditionally propagated trees produce only six suckers a year.

Mburu's farm is near Maragua, in the Kenyan highlands, an area once famed for the sweetness of its bananas. Like most Kenyan smallholders, she devotes little labor and few inputs to her crop. Throughout the Marauga area most banana trees now look sickly and poorly cared for. In recent years, pests and diseases such as nematodes, fusarium wilt, banana weevil, and black sigatoka have invaded the orchards, while fruit yields have fallen to an all-time low. The result has been a steep hike in prices, which have increased several fold in local markets over the past five years.

Across from Mburu's farm is a different kind of enterprise. Here Joe Kibe, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and currently a large-scale farmer of French beans for export, has just had four hectares of his land planted with 6000 tissue-cultured banana plantlets.

Tissue-cultured plantlets have four main advantages over traditionally propagated planting material. First, they are clean: the sterile conditions under which tissue culture is carried out eliminate fungal diseases, nematodes, and bacteria. Second, the trees will be far more productive, reaching maturity earlier and bearing fruit bunches up to 50% heavier than traditionally raised trees. Elsewhere, tissue-cultured trees typically produce 50 tonnes of fruit per hectare per year, and could produce up to 80 tonnes per hectare per year under Kenya's favorable climate conditions. Third, the trees are more uniform and will all reach maturity at the same time. Finally, each tree produces up to 1015 suckers per year—which is more than double the number from traditionally propagated trees—thus offering a rapid means of multiplying and disseminating better planting material.

Kibe obtained his plantlets from a new company, Genetic Technology Limited (GTL), which produced them in its laboratories in Nairobi. Now the plantlets, each of uniform height, occupy individual holes dug in neat rows across a large, well-cultivated field. Soon, irrigation facilities will be in place, ensuring that the young trees get all the water they need. Each tree will also receive liberal doses of farmyard manure or fertilizers. As they mature, the plantlets will be watched closely to make sure that the number of off-types—unwanted variations produced through cell division in the laboratory— remains within acceptable limits. If all goes well, Kibe will harvest his first banana crop in early 1998, selling it to local wholesalers in Nairobi.

For Kibe, banana is a new crop—and not one he would have thought of growing if left to his own devices. In fact, when Florence Wambugu, director of ISAAA's AfnCenter, first met him, he was thinking of diversifying into roses—already a lucrative export for several of his neighbors. Wambugu had come to consult him on how to reach Kenya's small-scale farmers with tissue-cultured banana plantlets. His advice was simple and pragmatic: allow a few farmers to demonstrate the value of the plantlets, and others would soon follow. When Wambugu went on to suggest that he himself should be the first of the few, he was initially skeptical. But at ISAAA's instigation he and his wife visited South Africa. There they saw for themselves how commercial production and a lucrative export industry could be built on the large-scale production of tissue-cultured plantlets. Kibe has since become Kenya's first commercial farmer to take the crop seriously And he's blazing a trail Wambugu hopes others will soon follow.

"Kibe's success in producing and marketing the crop will build confidence throughout the sector," Wambugu points out. She believes that his example, together with that of other pioneering farmers, will alert small-scale farmers to the commercial potential of bananas and ignite the demand for tissue-cultured plantlets.

Reaching the small-scale farmers

The potential demand for tissue-cultured plantlets in Kenya is astronomical—conservatively estimated at around four to eight million per year. Only a fraction of this demand is met at present. "it's a chicken-and-egg situation," observes Wambugu. "The private sector hesitates because it faces the challenge of developing effective distribution channels to reach millions of resource-poor farmers widely scattered over large areas of the country. Farmers don't demand tissue-cultured plants until they know about them and have seen for themselves the benefits they bring."

Experience in countries such as South Africa and Costa Rica shows that new companies can be set up to produce and commercialize tissue-cultured banana plantlets. In South Africa, the private sector currently produces over 4 million tissue-cultured plantlets per year, mainly for export. Public sector research by the Institute of Tropical and Subtropical Crops (ITSC) played an important role in supporting the development of the technology, which was then taken over by the companies. Critical to success are strict quality control in the laboratory, sound nursery management, and strong links with end users, which provide vital feedback on farmers' reactions to the new technology.

In Kenya, the recent emergence of companies such as GTL suggests that the country can replicate South Africa's experience. GTL was established in 1994, primarily to step up the supply of planting materials for pyrethrum, an important export crop. Its success in this area has led the company to diversify into sugar cane and other crops, including banana. .Wambugu, whose encouragement was instrumental in getting the company established, is confident its operations will continue to expand. "Every time I go there, they have new labs," she affirms. To stimulate the efforts of GTL and other current and potential players in the market for tissue-cultured banana plants, the ISAAA project plans to buy plantlets during the early years of operations. The plantlets will be supplied to small-scale farmers for on-farm testing.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (IKUAT) first demonstrated that a domestic market for tissue-cultured plantlets existed in Kenya; the school pioneered the use of tissue culture in Kenya during the early 1990s. The university's laboratory currently produces around 20,000 plantlets a year, which are sold to farmers in nearby banana growing areas. Farmers from these areas regularly come to the university to ask for more material, and there is now a waiting list of more than 1 year.

Two Biotechnology Fellowships (one sponsored by the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP) and the other by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)) awarded through ISAAA enabled researchers at the university to visit private-sector companies in Costa Rica, Mexico, and South Africa in order to learn how to upscale production. The researchers are now working independently to prepare the laboratory for expanded operations.

The role of the public sector

As in South Africa, the support of the public sector will be vital to the development of a strong private sector. KARI is the main public-sector partner in the ISAAA-brokered project. One of KARl's most important contributions is germplasm. Under the project, a sourcing team at KARI is building the Institute's germplasm collection and organizing the selection and testing of improved materials. Sources of the new materials include Kenya itself, where around 35 varieties are grown, and neighboring Uganda, which harbors even greater genetic diversity. Improved materials are also being acquired from international centers and programs, such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP).

Another vital form of public-sector support is virus indexing. The tissue culture process does not eliminate viruses, which cause several serious diseases in bananas. One of the most serious is bunchy top—a disease not yet present in Kenya and which the project must take care not to import. Virus indexing—a technique for detecting and eliminating viral infections in cells—eliminates all viruses (except those, such as banana streak virus, that are thought to be embedded in the plant genome). The use of this technique avoids the risk of multiplying infected plant stocks through tissue culture.

Under the project, ISAAA is organizing training in diagnostic techniques at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in the UK and at ITSC in South Africa. With funding from the UK's Overseas Development Administration (ODA), a laboratory is currently being installed at KARI that will offer disease diagnostic services both to the project and to the private sector. In the longer term, the laboratory could be privatized to offer a comprehensive service to all banana producers.

The production of "clean" banana plantlets.

KARI will also conduct on-farm research to stimulate demand for tissue-cultured plantlets among resource-poor farmers. Around 150 farmers recognized as leaders in their communities have been selected to participate. They will pass the new technology on to others in their communities. They will also be encouraged to start new businesses as regional or local distributors. That should, in turn, encourage larger, more centralized suppliers such as GTL. By working at both ends of the supply and demand problem, the project seeks to overcome the chicken-and-egg situation described by Wambugu.

The on-farm component of the project will include agronomic research to determine the optimum management of improved tissue-cultured plantlets under Kenyan conditions. This research will address issues such as the most advantageous plantlet density and planting depth, the expected productive life of plantations, water and fertilizer requirements, and recommended disease control strategies. An important question to be answered is the extent to which farmers may revert to traditional propagation methods after the initial influx of new planting material. It may be that farmers need buy only a few tissue-cultured plantlets, using the many suckers they produce to raise yields throughout their plantation.

Lastly, on-farm research will provide vital information on farmer's reactions to the new technology, including their willingness to pay for it. This in turn will throw light on the feasibility of supplying plantlets to the more remote areas, given the high transportation costs. The information will feed into the development of a business plan to make the large-scale production of tissue-cultured plants commercially viable.

Complementing KARl's on-farm research will be socioeconomic studies conducted by Kenyatta University in three of the major banana-growing provinces of Kenya. These studies are being funded separately by IDRC and other donors under the African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) network. Margaret Karembu, a lecturer at the university's Department of Environmental Studies, is responsible for the research. Karembu's studies are still at an early stage, but she has already reached one important conclusion that vindicates the approach taken by the ISAAA project: technology diffusion must be accompanied by information or training if small-scale farmers are to benefit from tissue-cultured plantlets.

Spreading the message

To secure the advantages of tissue-cultured trees, farmers must break with tradition and manage their orchards. For a start, hole planting—an optional extra in the traditional system—is obligatory with tissue-cultured trees, whose vigorous suckering lifts the whole tree during the early years of growth. The plantlet must be planted in a hole so that soil can be added to prevent the growing tree from uprooting itself. To avoid pest and disease problems, especially nematodes, farmers should clean their fields before planting, preferably choosing an area in which banana has not been recently cultivated. Once the plantlets are in, they need manure—an input that is seldom provided in the traditional system. If rains are unreliable or insufficient they may also need water, the supply of which is critical during the first three months until the bulbs have formed. Lastly, farmers must also learn that they cannot propagate trees from suckers indefinitely, but must once again order fresh planting material after 8-12

KARl's on-farm trials will serve to demonstrate appropriate management practices in the target areas. In addition, the extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture has agreed to participate in the dissemination of planting material and information. The project also involves several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including local women's groups that are keen to promote solutions to the problems of small-scale banana growers.

Banana prices in Kenya are rising, and farmers are waking up to the crop's commercial potential. That makes them hungry for the influx of new planting materials that tissue culture can offer. This demand from farmers increases the chances that ISAAA's project will succeed in creating a strong distribution system and an effective private sector. Provided that the adoption of tissue-cultured plantlets is accompanied by adequate information and training, there is no reason why demand should not remain buoyant for many years to come.

As the new materials reach farmers' fields, they should bring about a rapid improvement in domestic food supplies. They will also raise living standards and increase employment opportunities for small-scale farmers or entrepreneurs. In the long term they may even make it possible for Kenya to export bananas.

Standing to gain the most from the project are many millions of women like Mrs. Mburu, who depend on bananas for their livelihoods. Mburu is well aware of her neighbor's experiment and has been to see it for herself. If all goes according to plan, it won’t be long before her tired old orchards get a new lease of life.