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January 22, 2002


Fear Limits Growth, Oscar Arias Sanchez , Coffee,


Today in AgBioView:

* Farmers, greens can find common ground
* Query concerning coffee
* New study on the movement of bacteria in plants
* EU Advanced Workshop
* Dutch Public Debate: conclusions and recommendations to the Government
* Pew Initiative: Identify Preservation Raises As Many Qs as As
* A new beginning for biotech in Europe?
* European Food Safety Authority adopted
* India nears decision on GM crops


January 18, 2002
Tanner Ehmke
(Via Agnet)

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The more things change, the more they stay the same. New technologies and advancements in science are constantly being added to the list of the great achievements of the human race, and each one is met with resistance from those failing to understand the possibilities. We are experiencing this now with another great triumph in science -- genetically modified organisms, which are made by recombining DNA to scientifically engineer foods. Despite the possibilities these genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, promise for agriculture and feeding the world, there still remains a deluge of criticism from those fearing change.

When vaccines were introduced, the public scoffed at the idea of deliberately sticking a needle directly into the arm and inserting a chemical grown from mold into the bloodstream. That same preposterous idea has saved innumerable lives. Now some people want to ban GMOs.

In 1999, anti-biotechnology activists created a circus (minus elephants and big red shoes) over Starlink corn, which contained a special protein not natural to corn. Some of it found its way into Taco Bell`s tacos. After the news broke, people who felt the least bit ill after eating one of their tacos assumed it was an allergic reaction. Did they ever consider that maybe it was the refried beans that made them feel nauseated? The American Council on Science and Health said the paranoia about bioengineered foods was distorted and exaggerated -- and completely without scientific merit. It was not the food that made them sick. It was the activists. Still, narrow-minded activists are adamant that `frankenfoods` mean death to our civilization as we know it because we are meddling with evolution. The opposite argument seems to be more accurate.

Discontinuing progress built on our innovation is where civilization fails. Without continuing improvements in how we produce or make food, like using GMOs, millions of people will continue to die from hunger or go blind from malnutrition. In the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, more than 2.5 million people live in misery and hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Fourteen other African countries also are facing food emergencies. There are millions more starving worldwide. Who wants to be the one to break the news to these people that we can no longer help them because it`s not Nature`s way? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, GMO varieties helped U.S. soybean farmers save $216 million on weed control in 1999. Pesticide use in the United States also has decreased by more than 1,200 tons per year, thanks to GMOs. How is this bad?

Others insist on labeling foods that contain GMOs, even though there is a complete lack of evidence of any apparent dangers the foods might have. Nonetheless, suppose we were to label GMO foods. There are labels on tobacco products with a warning from the Surgeon General stating that if you use the product, you are taking the risk of getting cancer and dying, which no reasonable scientist can dispute. What would the label say for GMOs? ``Surgeon General`s Warning: Genetically modified foods cause ... well, we don`t know. We just like putting labels on things.``

The fact is, according to a statement made by Professor Wolfgang van Daelen in Berlin, there are no empirical or plausible theoretical arguments that genetically modified foods represent a greater risk to the consumer than normal food. If the government were to require labeling, they would be feeding an unfounded fear, and paranoia based on myth, in the people they govern. Other leaders in our world`s history have run their government with similar tactics -- Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler, just to name a few. All things considered, the banning and labeling of GMOs cannot be considered progress. Granted, there should be a watchful eye on the technology as it develops, but to halt it altogether is not logical, as some would have it.

We have to find a way to do more with less. Do organizations such as Greenpeace International and the Natural Law Party, who are so eager to condemn GMOs, have a better solution for feeding the growing population? Maybe some of our anti-biotechnology friends should be rolling up their sleeves rather than rolling up joints at Phish concerts. When we analyze the alternatives, like burning rainforests to increase cultivated acreage for growing food, GMOs seem quite reasonable. Other pieces of the puzzle are just as valuable, like finding a better method of distribution of current food supplies to impoverished nations.

But that alone won`t work. Technological change should be embraced, but many refuse to accept what it has to offer. You can slow it down, but you can never stop it.


Farmers, greens can find common ground

The Canberra Times
By Oscar Arias Sanchez

THE ENVIRONMENT ministers of the nations of the Caribbean and Latin America gathered in Rio de Janeiro recently to discuss an agenda for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. A major theme of next year's World Summit in Johannesburg also known as Rio+10 will be the critical issue of poverty in conjunction with conservation.

Where poor and hungry people have few options other than to encroach on the environment for a day's pay, conservation efforts will be stymied. This issue must be as familiar to Brazilians as it is to Costa Ricans: the need for more food and better livelihoods continues to sidetrack conservation efforts world-wide.

There is another way. A recent report identifies a new approach emerging around the world, which scientists call ''ecoagriculture.'' Instead of working against each other, farmers and environmentalists work together to find farming methods that both produce more food and preserve the environment.

>From grazing lands to coffee plantations to rice paddies, farmers and scientists are finding ways to preserve biodiversity within largely agricultural landscapes. As environment ministers continue to meet about Rio+10, they would be wise to examine this groundbreaking approach to conservation.

The report a joint effort by Future Harvest and The World Conservation Union brought together agricultural and environmental scientists to provide for the first time a comprehensive summary of the interactions between wild biodiversity and agriculture around the world.

Entitled Common Ground, Common Future, the report points out that the most popular approach to protecting wildlife has been to fence off large areas for preservation where farming is restricted. This approach makes sense at one level, and debt-for-nature swaps were a priority for my administration in Costa Rica.

However, research shows that nature reserves alone will not solve the problem, as endangered species and hungry humans often occupy the same land. The effectiveness of reserves depends greatly on whether the uses of surrounding lands support conservation objectives. Moreover, almost half the world's major nature reserves are now being heavily used for agriculture.

Indeed, the need for more food and more farming is urgent and growing in the developing world. More than 1.1 billion people live within the 25 most threatened, species-rich areas of the world dubbed ''biodiversity hotspots'' by scientists. The majority of these hotspots are also areas with very high malnutrition rates. In many of them, the human population is growing more rapidly than in the world as a whole.

Clearly, the answer to biodiversity conservation cannot be to stop growing food. Nor is it to keep farming the old way. The Future Harvest report cites six ways in which farmers can change their agricultural practices.

These strategies include:

* Establish networks of wildlife habitat in non-farmed areas and connect these with larger protected areas.

* Integrate perennial plants into farming systems to mimic natural habitats such as forests and savannas.

* Deploy farming methods that reduce pollution.

Increase agricultural productivity on lands already being farmed to reduce further conversion of land to agriculture.

Modify soil, water, and vegetation management in crop fields and other productive areas to enhance their value as wildlife habitat.

Establish protected areas near farmlands, ranches, and fisheries that also benefit local people. Case studies are found around the world, where these strategies are being used successfully to produce more food while also protecting endangered species. One example comes from Brazil's Mata Atlantica, home to lion tamarin monkeys found nowhere else in the world, as well as hundreds of bird species and rich flora.

As a result of five centuries of population growth and land clearing, only 7 per cent of the original forest remains. Today, small-scale dairy farming is one of the most important economic activities in the area, but the practice has put farmers at odds with conservationists because the cattle require ever-expanding areas for pasture.

Since the mid-1990's, the non-governmental organisation Pro-Natura has provided technical assistance to poor dairy farmers to improve farm productivity.

'Nature reserves alone will not solve the problem, as endangered species and hungry humans often occupy the same land'

In exchange, the farmers are helping to re-forest and regenerate part of their land. Farmers saw their milk yields triple and their incomes double. With the increase in productivity, farmers have reduced the area devoted to pasture. More than 60 hectares of pasture on 16 farms has already been converted back to forest. In addition, more than 50,000 seedlings have been planted on farms and in rural communities.

Shifting to ecoagriculture on a large scale will require a change in mindset for many farmers, environmentalists, and policymakers who have often been at odds. However, the payoff is great. Environment ministers in Brazil and across South and Central America should examine this new approach to growing food to help solve an important dilemma that has dogged conservation efforts for decades. It offers hope that humans and wildlife can share common ground and prosper in a common future.

Mr Sanchez is a former President of Costa Rica who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. He is an ambassador for Future Harvest, a global non-profit organisation that promotes research in agriculture and the environment. This is a translation of an article first published in the Brazilian publication Folha de Sao Paulo earlier this month.


From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Query concerning coffee
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 07:34:58 -0600

Today (Jan. 23, 2002) in a Reuters article about the coffee industry in Colombia, the story contained the following sentence:

"Among Cenicafe's [the Colombia Coffee Federation Scientific Research department] major achievements is the genetically-engineered ''Colombia'' bean, which is resistant to a local weevil called ``roya.'' The bean was handed over to growers in the 1980s after nearly 30 years of research."

What techniques were used to creat the "Colombia" bean resistant to the weevil called "roya"? Once I know the techniques I can determine how the laws of the EU and the proposed Cartagena Biosafety Protocol apply to this coffee bean.

Thank you.


Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-5081 U.S.A.
Ph.: 1-405-325-4784
FAX: 1-405-325-0389

New study on the movement of bacteria in plants

A study published in the January 2002 edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology documents the transmission of a potentially pathogenic strain of E. coli from manure-contaminated soil and water into the roots and leaves of lettuce plants.

Officials at the USDA funded the study by microbiologist Karl Matthews and his colleagues at Rutgers University out of concern about the microbial quality of soil and irrigation water.

Should the results of this study call into question the safety of using manure and compost for fertilization of crops? Not according to Matthews, senior author, who says it is not a concern. Others, including E. Ann Clark, co-author of this article, point out that the Rutgers study may shed light on the pathways of movement of genetically engineered bacteria amongst soil, plants and insects.

Further information see CropChoice news http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?RecID=559
Robert Schubert, CropChoice editor and E. Ann Clark, professor of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph

Harnessing Institutional Synergies
Trieste, Italy
6-9 February 2002
Organized by the Third World Academy of Sciences, as part of its contribution to the international Initiative on Science and echnology for Sustainability, with financial support from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Workshop Co-conveners:

Mohamed Hassan, Third World Academy of Sciences
Calestous Juma, Harvard University
William Clark, Harvard University

Readings Suggested by Workshop Participants
Draft Agenda
Participant List


EU Advanced Workshop

June 17 - 26, 2002
Oxford University, St. Edmund Hall, United Kingdom

Organised by EFB Task Group on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology


Agriculture Column

The Wichita Eagle
January 22, 2002 04:21 PM

Jan. 20--There's been a lot of publicity about consumers' rejection of biotech crops and plenty of general flap over genetic modification of plants for herbicide tolerance or insect resistance.

But that's not stopping the rapid growth in the number of farmers moving to transgenic crops or the number of acres being planted with genetically modified seed, according to a report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

Acreage planted with biotech crops was up 19 percent from 2000 to 2001, an increase almost double the growth between 1999 and 2000. Going back six years to compare 1996 acreage to 2001 acreage shows a 30-fold increase.

Total acreage around the world planted into genetically modified crops is estimated at 130 million acres, planted by 5.5 million farmers in 13 countries. Four principal countries, however, account for 99 percent of the total acreage. The United States has 68 percent of the global total, followed by Argentina with 22 percent, Canada with 6 percent and China with 3 percent.

Soybeans were the number one genetically modified crop, followed by corn, cotton and canola.


Public Debate: conclusions and recommendations to the Government

The Dutch public has reservations about the application of biotechnology in food production. That was the conclusion of the recent public debate on food and genetics. The large majority did however feel that the application of gene technology in food production could be allowed under stringent conditions. These were the conclusions of the Commission on Biotechnology and Food, chaired by Jan Terlouw, former Minister of Economic Affairs. On 9 January 2002 the Commission presented its final report and conclusions to the Minister of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.

In January 2001, in order to broaden the discussions on biotechnology and food to include the general public, the Dutch Government instructed the independent Terlouw Commission to hold a public debate. The Commission was made up of nine members, experts in the field of food and health, public communication, agriculture, nature and development cooperation, and also included a novelist.

The public was asked to give its opinion on the pros and cons of gene technology on the basis of nine actual or hypothetical examples . Contact with the public was made via a series of advertisements in national and regional newspapers, a special website and a brochure in the in-house magazines of the largest supermarket chains. The Commission also called on schools and other organisations to set up their own debates. It created a tool pack containing information material, debating aids and forms on which participants could make their views known. Finally the Commission set up six discussion groups of 25 people each. Assisted by experts in the field, these groups considered the pros and cons of gene technology in depth during two debating sessions. They were also asked to formulate what they felt to be acceptable conditions for the application of gene technology.

Many of those responding were doubtful about the value of biotechnology in food production, were afraid of the risks entailed and looked for alternatives. Very few of the people raising objections appeared to be doing so for reasons of principle or ethics. Most people started by asking what the use of a particular application would be. This was directly aligned to the question of risk, both to public health and the natural environment. Reservations were greater when there was the suggestion that this technology be applied to animals. Ethical objections raised questions about the need to find alternatives. The public stipulated that the guarantee of individual freedom of choice is an essential condition for allowing the use of biotechnology in food production.

It seems that there would be little support for the nine hypothetical examples used. Only 16 per cent of respondents from schools and organisations felt that these could be carried out unconditionally, 48 per cent attached conditions and 36 per cent were completely opposed to them. Least resistance was generated by the example of rennet production using GMOs, the most resistance was generated by transgenic salmon and terminator seed.

The Commission discovered that the more informed people were, the easier it was for them to formulate clear conditions for what they thought was the acceptable application of biotechnology in food preparation. This was particularly true of the debating groups. Their attitude to biotechnology was not more positive, but they did come to realise what was most important to them. The most important condition is that the public have confidence in the bodies dealing with these issues: the government, scientists and private business. Not enough has been done to meet this condition. The more closely these conditions are met, the more prepared the public is to accept the application of biotechnology.

Restoring confidence in the government is the most important factor, because the government lays down the terms of operation for science and the private sector. The Commission addressed this in its recommendations:

* A National or European Food Authority should be set up which will operate with absolute independence. This authority should be given the competence to authorise food products. It should be funded by the government. There should be no government interference in the working of this body.
* The government should develop better methods of initiating public discussion at an early stage on the application of knowledge in the area of life sciences. There has to be public support for the application of new technology. It is therefore essential that the public is given objective, balanced and understandable information in time, in order to be able to form an opinion about the conditions which would make application acceptable. It was recommended that the Government commission a study in the near future to find the most suitable ways of communicating information on the application of biotechnology to the public.
* The publics freedom of choice has to be guaranteed by making accessible, detailed product information compulsory.

The public also voiced its expectations regarding:

* An open and honest attitude from the private sector, which means transparency regarding the interests and risks involved in the applications they are working on;
* A critical role for consumer organisations and
* An independent stance by the scientific community, having regard to the wider public interest.

Over the past year debates have been conducted on a large scale by numerous organisations, often on their own initiative. Approximately 80 organisations and 200 schools carried out debating activities using the information provided by the Commission and the play Met of Zonder (with or without) was performed in 50 of these. It is estimated that during the year approximately 2,000 people took part in the debate at the invitation of a public organisation as well as at least 10,000 in schools. In the period March to December 2001 there were more than 44,000 visitors to the website. Approximately 26,000 people reacted to newspaper advertisements asking the public for its opinion.


Pew Initiative: Identify Preservation Raises As Many Qs as As

by Julianne Johnston

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, along with USDA have released a report based on a conference on biotech crop challenges and benefits held last fall. The report identifies that segregating biotech crops through the use of identify preservation (IP) raises as many questions as it does answers.

The proceedings of the conference, "Knowing Where It's Going: Bringing Food To Market in The Age of Genetically Modified Crops," asked crucial questions such as whether or not to segregate GM crops on a massive scale, if the market is signaling that segregation is the wave of the future and, if so, what kinds of costs and liabilities would be involved, were released by the two groups.
In a statement released by the Initiative, the group says since the StarLink incident last year, the issue of how and whether to keep genetically modified crops separate from their conventionally-bred counterparts has come to the forefront.

"Genetically modified crops present marketing challenges -- as well as opportunities -- for every part of the chain of the food production and delivery system," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Initiative. "Seed producers, grain handlers and food manufacturers alike are all struggling to determine how they can best capture value from these new products. The marketplace is also growing ever more complex, with consumers demanding a wide variety of product choices from organic, to conventional foods, to genetically modified food that could deliver enhanced nutritional benefits.

For the report in full (pdf version):

A new beginning for biotech in Europe?

Wednesday 23 January 2002: Today the European Commission is expected to set out a strategy for European life sciences and biotechnology. EuropaBio, the European association for bioindustries, welcomes this effort to acknowledge biotechnology as a major source of innovation for a very wide range of products and the important role it can play in building a knowledge-based economy.

The communication, "Life Sciences and Biotechnology - a Strategy for Europe", is particularly welcome at a time when Europe's fledgling biotech industries are struggling to keep pace with their international rivals. "We have more companies than the US but we generate far fewer products," says Hugo Schepens, EuropaBio's Secretary General.

Although a European biotech strategy is a good start, resources and energies at EU and national levels must be mobilized and coordinated to make the strategy a reality. "Supportive measures must be coherent, synergistic and attractive; and the regulatory process must be science-based, consistent and workable," says Hugo Schepens. "This has been Europe's weakness."

EuropaBio calls on the Commission to ensure that the strategy is carried through, and on EU leaders to endorse the strategy at Barcelona in March. EU leaders themselves identified utilizing the full potential of biotechnology and strengthening the sector's competitiveness as important in order for Europe to match leading competitors. They must now ensure that biotechnology plays a full role in reaching the Lisbon summit goal of making Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010.

Ethics is likely to play an important role in the Commission's strategy to ensure that developments in life sciences and biotechnology are accompanied by a strong societal platform to encourage public debate and openness. "We are committed to generate understanding about our industry and to contribute to public debate and ethical platforms on all issues of concern to the public," says Schepens.

EuropaBio represents 40 corporate members operating worldwide and 17 national biotechnology associations (totalling some 1000 SMEs) involved in research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of biotechnology products. EuropaBio, the voice of European bioindustries, aims to be a promoting force for biotechnology and to present its proposals to industry, politicians, regulators, NGOs, and the public at large.

For further information please contact: EuropaBio
6 Avenue de l'Arme, 1040 Brussels
Tel. + 32 2 735 03 13
Fax: +32 2 735 49 60
Mob: +32 475 93 17 24
E-mail: mail@europabio.org
Internet: www.europabio.org

European Food Safety Authority adopted - Council agrees key legislation putting a new European-wide food safety system in place

21 January 2002

Brussels -- The Council of Agriculture Ministers has today adopted the Regulation setting up the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and a new framework for EU food law. The adoption of this key legislation marks a record-time agreement between all Member States in the Council and all political groups in the European Parliament on a major overhaul of the EU food safety system and the way scientific advice feeds into policy making. It completes the first phase of the wide ranging reform of the EU food law launched by the Prodi Commission in its January 2000 White Paper on Food Safety.(ref.2404)

Commissioner Byrne announced at the Council meeting that this fast-track adoption of the Regulation clears the way for immediate action to get the Authority fully operational at its temporary Brussels' location this year. As a first step the European Commission will launch procedures for selecting and appointing a Management Board and Executive Director. In the meantime the current system for scientific advice will continue to function until the EFSA Scientific Committee and Panels have been set up

"Today is a day of great achievement for food safety in the EU, and a showcase for the effectiveness of European institutions when it comes to solving problems close to the hearts and minds of EU citizens. When this Commission took office in September 1999 we committed ourselves to take urgent action to address the serious concerns of consumers about the safety of their daily food. And that is what we have delivered, in record-time", David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said today. "This success story is the result of the hard work, the diligence and the exemplary co-operation between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. I intend to immediately go ahead and launch procedures for selecting and nominating a Management Board and Executive Director of the EFSA. Now that we have a new and independent European Food Safety Authority agreed in legislation, we want to see it up and running within the shortest possible time."

Since he took office in September 1999, food safety has been Commissioner Byrne's top priority. The EFSA is the cornerstone of his strategy to ensure that the European consumer has access to the safest possible food supply in the world. The Regulation as adopted today also sets out the guiding principles of EU food legislation. A key element is the responsibility of food and feed businesses to ensure that only safe food/feedis placed on the market, and that foods/feedingstuffs that are unsafe are withdrawn from the market. It equally includes rules imposing the traceability of all foodstuffs, animal feed and feed ingredients, and procedures for developing food law and dealing with food emergencies.

It will also set up a Rapid Alert System for Feedingstuffs by integrating information on contaminated feed into the existing Rapid Alert System for Food. It will allow for rapid communication between the Member States on dangerous substances found in feed and its possible recalls and should be operational early Spring.

Next steps: a road map to the EFSA

Following the Laeken decision on Brussels as temporary seat for the EFSA, the European Commission has allocated part of its premises in Evere to the future Authority. This office space is currently occupied by the EFSA development team of the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection, as well as the staff responsible for supporting the existing scientific committees.

Before the EFSA can start to operate as an independent legal entity, a Management Board and Executive Director need to be appointed. The European Commission intends, in early February, to publish open 'calls for expression of interest', asking for candidates for the Management Board and for the Executive Director. The Management Board is to be composed of 14 members and a representative of the Commission. The Council will, after hearing Parliament's view, appoint these 14 members from amongst the suitably qualified candidates, identified by the Commission, that have come forward in response to the open call. The European Parliament will have a maximum of three months time to make its views on the candidates, listed as suitably qualified, known to the Council.

The Management Board will subsequently appoint the Executive Director on the basis of a list of suitable candidates following an open recruitment process. Before his or her appointment, the candidate for the Executive Director post chosen by the Management Board will appear before the European Parliament for a presentation and to answer questions.

An early publication of the two calls for expressions of interest would mean that the European Commission could draw up a list of suitable candidates for the Management Board by April. The selection process for the post of Executive Director will take place in parallel. Depending on the time it takes the European Parliament and Council to appoint the Board Members, the Executive Director could take up office sometime during the summer or early autumn.

One of the first tasks of the Executive Director will be to present a proposal for the constitution of the EFSA's new Scientific Committee and Panels, and to start recruiting the necessary specialised staff for the administration and the scientific work of the agency. The Director will also be in charge of setting up set up the Advisory Forum that is to assist the Authority in scientific and technical matters.

Until the EFSA management is in place, the European Commission will continue the preparatory work to ensure that the EFSA can become operational. The existing scientific committees will continue to function until the EFSA's Scientific Committee and Panels are operational to avoid any disruption in scientific advice on food safety matters.

The main task of the EFSA is to provide scientific advice and support for Community legislation and policies in all fields having a direct or indirect impact on food and feed safety. It will give independent information on these matters and communicate on risks in the food chain to the general public. The Authority is to become a point of reference for all stakeholders, policymakers and the public by virtue of its independence, the scientific quality of its opinions and its information to the public as well as the transparency of its procedures.

In addition to its own specialist personnel, the Authority will manage and be supported by networks of similar scientific and food safety organisations in the EU.

For more detail see


and Questions and Answers about the European Food Safety Authority at


The EFSA will be publishing its own web site at www.efsa.eu.int shortly.


January 22, 2002
Dow Jones Newswires
Tim Todd
(Via Agnet)

A dozen years ago and more than 3,000 miles from his Wisconsin home, Eric Triplett, according to this story, got an idea that could represent a new application of biotechnology to boost corn production that may eventually result in cornfields that don't need nitrogen fertilizer, a large component in corn production and a major cost factor for farmers. The story says that Mr. Triplett, a microbial ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the leader of the first group of scientists to isolate and identify strains of plant bacteria that can increase corn yields by 5% to 10%, essentially giving U.S. farmers the potential for an additional 13 to 14 bushels per acre, based on the current average U.S. yield. The scientists have applied for a patent through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Meanwhile, there is a licensing agreement with Agribiotics Inc., a relatively small, family-owned company in Cambridge, Ontario, that manufactures similar products for crops such as soybeans, peas, lentils an


Agence France Presse
January 21, 2002
(Via Agnet)

GENEVA -- The United States, according to this story, wants to convince the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) 143 other members to open their markets to genetically modified farm products, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said on Monday. Zoellick was cited as telling journalists at WTO headquarters here that biotech products, including genetically-modified (GM) foods, represented an "enormous potential" that must be tapped to fight hunger and malnutrition. The story says that his comments followed meetings with African and Asian counterparts as well as representatives of the Cairns group, which brings together 18 farm exporting countries. Zoellick was further quoted as saying, "One topic that I am discussing in particular is with the African group and with the others is the biotech area, which we feel is extremely important in terms of dealing with (issues) ranging from the hundreds of millions of African children who have malnutrition to extreme possibilities for benefits in terms of growing food wit
(GM) material.

Such an attitude, he maintained, was largely based on "fears and lack of a scientific basis or knowledge." "In the case of Europe, they now have a moratorium, it has gone for a number of years, we have been very patient with that. Europeans want to put additional regulations on products that are approved to be safe and healthy," he added.


January 20, 2002
The News
Reed Lindsay
(Via Agnet)

Last May, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, informed the government they had found genetically-modified (GM) corn in the mountains of Oaxaca, Eight months later, President Vicente Fox has, according to this story, yet to announce how his administration will respond. In the absence of an official position, top officials from both the Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) and Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) have voiced opinions on the matter. Far from coinciding, they have been markedly discordant. Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger has warned of the threat the discovery poses to the grain`s genetic diversity on the lands where it was first domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. For their part, the Sagarpa brass have continued to defend and promote the application of genetic engineering. And in striking contrast to the caution taken by Semarnat, Sagarpa officials have maintained the presence of GM corn in Mexico has not been "scientifically" proven. The difference in opinion


India nears decision on GM crops

BBC News
January 22, 2002

India has moved one step closer to approving genetically modified crops.
The government has started carrying out data analysis on oil seed and cotton crops, following one year of experiments.

The results are set to be passed to the government's genetic engineering approval committee - with a decision possible as early as next month.

While support for GM crops is growing in India, there are still many people locally - and worldwide - who have voiced concerns over the danger such crops pose to the environment, and ethical issues involved.

Productivity gains

Vivek Bharti, an adviser to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), believes that GM crops offer the potential for huge productivity gains.

He points to China's experience of GM crops, adding that if "the kind of productivity increase seen in China, is possible in India, then I can certainly say that... genetically modified crops hold a lot of promise for Indian agriculture".

He pointed to recent slowdown in growth in Indian agriculture, the mainstay of the country's important rural economy.

"To eradicate poverty, this growth rate needs to be stepped up," he added, indicating that GM technology may be a way forward.

Biotechnology, like software, is knowledge intensive.

This gives India's highly-qualified and English speaking, but relatively cheap, workforce a real commercial advantage.

A report last year by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the national market in biotechnology was now valued at $2.5bn, a fivefold increase since 1997.


January 22, 2002
(Via AGnet)

Short, lively panel discussion followed by a free-wheeling 90-minute open-mic question & answer period. Numerous issues will be covered, including: What will help organic farmers best service the consumer? New capital? Training? Packaging? Is the small organic grower in Canada or the US going to survive in the marketplace? Will bio-engineered crop varieties deplete (or possibly ruin) the market for organic food?

Gunnar Rundgren (President, IFOAM, Sweden);
Ann Clark (Prof. of Plant Agriculture, UofG);
David Orchard (Organic Farmer & PC Political Candidate);
Joe Scrimger (Organic Farmer & cropconsultant).
Moderator: Tomas Nimmo (Organic Farm Services Market Consulting).

Date:Friday, January 25, 2002
Time: 6:45 - 9:15 pm
Location: Thornbrough 100, next to the University Centre, University of Guelph Arrive early, meet the panelists & fill out the short questionnaire. Bring your questions! $10. Limited seating, book early.
Info/register: 519-824-4120 x2558 or